You know, like Julian Schnabel-bashing was back in the day, before he started directing? I’m thinking yes. The unkindness of it all aside (and that makes for a very big aside, I know), Peyton does inspire some of the most deliciously evil descriptive sentences among those art critics who dislike her work. The latest example of anti-Peytonism comes from the normally polite Ben Street of Art21 blog. In his latest “Letter from London,” he reviews Live Forever, the Peyton survey that made the rounds in the U.S. last year to mixed reviews (to put a positive spin on it) and is now on view at The Whitechapel Gallery in London. The Brits aren’t taking any greater of a shine to her work than we did, judging from Street’s review:

“I don’t understand why anyone would like Elizabeth Peyton, but I also don’t understand why anyone would like egg whites or Coldplay or The Shawshank Redemption, so maybe I’ll never understand. Her first UK solo show at the Whitechapel Art Gallery is so fey and self-conscious that I had to crush a can of Bud against my forehead and punch the wall out of sheer repressed masculine frustration. The drive to the police station and subsequent waiting around for my lawyer gave me sufficient time to mull over Peyton’s work. If I did like her work, what might I say about it? That its intimate scale and willful prettification of some of the nineties’ butt-ugliest pop stars brings together teenage fandom and the tradition of 18th-century portraiture? That its objectification of sallow Caucasian male beauty strikes a blow for the female gaze? That the breathless swishiness of her paintbrush and contre-jour light effects create poignant elegies to the transience of youth? That Peyton’s reimagining of Delacroix as the drummer in The Strokes and Napoleon as a Lower East Side DJ is somehow a radical reinterpretation of history? In Peyton’s words, Napoleon was “a beautiful man and he had a big vision about life.” Ever seen Elizabeth Peyton and Sasha Baron Cohen in the same room together?”

Yeah, o.k., granted. But what I want to know is, as chroniclers of their respective art scenes, what makes Dash Snow so “subversive” (see round up of Snow’s obit coverage here) while Peyton is the freakin’ devil? Was it Snow’s semen-stained “Fuck the Police” thing? Is that really all it takes??

O, Art World. I will never understand your whimsical ways. At any rate, you can watch video footage from Peyton’s New Museum show at Vernissage TV, to whom credit for the image below is also due.


Claudine Isé

Claudine Isé has worked in the field of contemporary art as a writer and curator for the past decade, and currently serves as the Editor of the Art21 Blog. Claudine regularly writes for and Chicago magazine, and has also worked as an art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Before moving to Chicago in 2008, she worked at the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH as associate curator of exhibitions, and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles as assistant curator of contemporary art, where she curated a number of Hammer Projects. She has Ph.D. in Film, Literature and Culture from the University of Southern California.