Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hump Day Artist: Elizabeth Peyton

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This week's Hump Day Artist is Elizabeth Peyton, a contemporary artist who primarily paints and draws portraits.  She is an incredible draughtsman, and her paintings have a quickness to them; each painting looks like it was painted in a matter of minutes (though it probably wasn't).  She is well known for her paintings of celebrities, but almost all of her subjects (celebrity or not) have that 90's heroine-chic look (young, pale, thin, ratty t-shirt, lounging around doing nothing).

Unlike most people, I grew up looking at art.  But, like most people, not much of that art was what you would call modern or contemporary.  I remember going to the The Art Institute of Chicago with my dad in the 10th grade.  The painting above was one of Elizabeth Peyton's works that was on display.  I had seen it in a recent issue of Vogue, but I was so shocked when I saw it in person.  This painting looked so fresh, like it had been painted a few hours earlier.  Every brushstroke was so present and real.  It really knocked me down.  This self-portrait is incredibly small, but really packs a wallop.  I'll never forget that day: not only was it my first experience with contemporary art, but also a huge game-changer in the way I viewed both art making and art viewing.  All thanks to one tiny little painting of a woman with her dog (and one heart-stopping John Currin, but more on that later).
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Recently, Peyton shocked the art world with her portrait of Justin Bieber.  A new low?  I don't think so.  I love to see an artist who makes decidedly "fine" art turn her attention to someone so un-cool as Justin Bieber.  Don't mistake me, the Biebs is possibly one of the biggest stars ever, but he doesn't have the clout that someone like Kurt Cobain, Meg White, or Barack Obama have (all have been subjects of Peyton).  It's almost like she is poking fun at herself; this recent portrait just highlights her own fanboy tendencies.  But, isn't that all art its?  Don't we just paint things that we like?  We come up with these ridiculous reasons for why we make work, but in all honesty, most of us are just painting the things we want to see (I spent an entire 6 months painting sandwiches).   And who doesn't want to see the Biebs?

Check out more of Elizabeth Peyton's work at gagosian.com
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