Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton is the first-ever survey of the artist’s work, which includes over 100 portraits — paintings, drawings and prints — of icons ranging from modern-day musical legends like Kurt Cobain and Liam Gallagher to historic figures and revered monarchs like Napoleon and Queen Elizabeth. Armed with only a petite canvas and an equally small network of colors, Peyton is able to capture the very essence of a person: You will know almost immediately whom you’re looking at.
The show, despite comprising two whole floors, retains a cozy and intimate feel, almost like you’re peaking into someone’s family room — due in large part to Peyton’s usage of miniature canvases and frames. “[The portraits] are beautifully painted and the format is so small –- they’re almost like little baubles,” said Laura Hoptman, the show’s curator.
What is perhaps the most interesting feature of this exhibition, however, is that which can only be revealed in a survey: After walking through the show for no more than ten minutes (or less), one senses a conspicuous commonality between many of the works. The portraits of men (which make up the bulk of the show) are overwhelmingly androgynous, and if you’ve ever seen a photograph of the artist herself, they all a bear a striking resemblance to Peyton. “When looked at as a whole,” said Hoptman, “this show is, in many ways, a collection of self-portraits of the artist.”
Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton is open until January 11 at the New Museum.
Image: “Kurt” (detail), 1995, oil on board, 25.4x 20.3 cm. Collection Glenn Fuhrman. Courtesy the FLAG Art Foundation.