Elizabeth Peyton

Posted: March 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: no blah blah: one artist | Tags: , | No Comments »

That’s what oil paint’s about. You know it’ll last forever.” Elizabeth Peyton in conversation with Rob Pruitt and Steve Lafreniere for Index Magazine, 2000.


Jarvis, 1996, oil on board. Courtesy of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, NY

American painter born in 1965.
Studied fine arts at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Her second exhibition is famous because it took place in a room of the Chelsea Hotel. The place had always been a center of artistic life in New York; many writers and musicians have stayed there (and it is also where Sid Vicious’s girlfriend Nancy Spungen was found stabbed to death in 1978).
Her body of work includes portraits of musicians such as Kurt Cobain, Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker, and famous people from fashion, art and politics: Marc Jacobs, François Truffaut, Matthew Barney, Jonathan Horowitz, Abraham Lincoln, the Kennedys…
She bases her work on pictures from books, magazines or her own snapshots.
All paintings are usually small sized, with some strong graphic sense and the use of bright colours. She creates what we can call intimate portraits, depicting her subjects in a melancholic mood most of the time.
Peyton chooses to return to portrait, which has a long tradition in art history but is probably less common in contemporary art.
2008’s show Life Forever: Elizabeth Peyton, held at the New Museum, NYC, was the first retrospective of her work in an American institution.

Em, 2002, etching w/aquatint printed in purple ink. Courtesy of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, NY

Extracts from a conversation with Elizabeth Peyton and Cheryl Kaplan for Deutsche Bank Artmag:

CK: How long do you work on individual paintings?

EP: It depends. A lot of times I’ll start and it’ll sit around for a month and I’ll pick it up. It’s always different.

CK: Before you start a painting, what do you know about the painting’s final version?

EP: Nothing. (laughter)

CK: Isn’t that scary…

EP: Yes. I’ll know I’m interested in a certain picture or person, then isolate a picture, but otherwise I have no idea what will happen.

CK: In what way do your paintings lean on your drawings?

EP: For me, drawing and painting have always been separate. If I can get it done in the drawing, it’s over. I don’t need to paint it. Lately I’ll draw, then I do a monotype, then I’ll like it so much I’ll want to make a painting of it, but there’ll be different problems. I never see drawing as less, it’s always another way to resolve. Drawings let you see the thought. That depends on whose drawings.

CK: Your paintings often have an androgynous quality.

EP: I’m interested in people who are androgynous. I like it when people aren’t stereotypically female or male, that their personalities are outside that and not defined or contained by being male or female. I like men who objectify themselves, which is a female trait.

Elizabeth Peyton is currently living and working in New York City.

Gavin Brown’s Enterprise (New York)
Sadie Coles HQ (London)


Live to Ride (E.P.), 2003, oil on board. Courtesy of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, NY

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.