via Off Center
While the “statements” on view in the exhibition Statements: Beuys, Flavin, Judd may seem less-than-political at first glance, all three artists — Joseph Beuys, Dan Flavin, and Donald Judd — were deeply engaged in political matters. According to exhibition curator Yasmil Raymond, all three men, who were adult artists working in the turbulent 1960s, were both military veterans and pacifists and had bold views on politics of their day. Of course, theirs wasn’t politics in the traditional sense. As Beuys once said, “I have nothing to do with with politics — I know only art.” Yet he and environmentalist Likas Beckmann founded Germany’s Green Party. And Judd, who was bitterly opposed to war of all kinds, wrote the seminal essay “Art and Internationalism” in protest of imperialism; his withdrawal to Marfa, Texas, some say, was a response to the war in Vietnam.
With a contentious and historic election three weeks away, the Walker has taken some of the political quotations by artists in the show and reproduced them on simple red and blue buttons, to be given away free at each Target Free Thursday Night. The statements, selected by Raymond and Education’s Sarah Peters, are bold, positive and quirky — like Beuys’ quizzical “Democracy is Merry” — serving as either a welcome respite from the clichés of modern horserace politics or a transcendent view of a different possibility for democracy.
October 16, 2008 · Print This Article
The Guardian has compiled a list of inexpensive activities to check out if you can’t afford to attend Frieze.
October 15, 2008 · Print This Article
More than 100 strong, they populate the midcareer survey, “Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton,” with small or tiny images that sit almost skittishly on the walls. Most are portraits and occasionally self-portraits painted from photographs or from life; a few are interiors or still lifes; one is a stunning Greenwich Village street scene.
Few are much larger than your face. The best collapse the distances between realist painting, modernist abstraction, personal snapshot and magazine, and are accessible, devotional and visually alive. Their gem-rich colors are applied with brazen abandon, like miniature action paintings.
This elegantly micromanaged presentation doesn’t have the best timing. It comes after the first peak of Ms. Peyton’s career, in the late 1990s, when her influence was at its height, but before a second phase has completely gelled. The show is uneven in some places and overlong in others. At its conclusion Ms. Peyton is shown heading in several promising new directions, although unsteadily. This will help perpetuate the underestimation that has often surrounded her work.
Ms. Petyon emerged in the early 1990s; with painters like John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage, she helped open the floodgates to the painterly, outsiderish, illustrational, art-smart figurative styles that by now has become a crowded genre. Her portraits have been correctly seen as indebted to David Hockney, Alex Katz and Andy Warhol. Lovingly rendered and relatively unprotected by irony or size, they have also frequently been dismissed with the put-down du jour. They’re pretty. They’re slight. They’re celebrity besotted. They’re paintings. They sell. All this is true to some degree, but hardly the whole or most interesting part of the story, which “Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton” is at pains to tell as completely as possible.
Born in Connecticut in 1965, Ms. Peyton began making portraits as a child, and graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1987. Six years later she and Gavin Brown, a young dealer on the verge of opening a gallery, staged a two-week display of weirdly illustrational, seemingly slapdash charcoal-and-ink drawings based on photographs or prints of scenes from the lives of Ludwig II of Bavaria, Napoleon, Queen Elizabeth II and Marie Antoinette. Mounted in a small room in the Chelsea Hotel, the works could be seen by anyone who requested the room key at the front desk.
I remember the show. It felt stilted and old-fashioned and got on my nerves. But within a year Ms. Peyton had taken up more contemporary, if equally romantic, subjects and her preoccupations began to come into focus.
Her wan, incandescent paintings of youth-culture royalty — starting with Kurt Cobain — gave the magazine images on which they were based a second, handmade, more substantial life. You’ll find six paintings of Cobain near the show’s entrance, most impressively “Zoe’s Kurt,” which portrays that grunge legend as little more than a succession of alabaster whites, a pair of piercing eyes and a jacket implied with a thin, runny layer of deep red. He seems to be disappearing before our eyes.
Other paintings portray Liam Gallagher of the band Oasis and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp looking suitably thin, androgynous and wasted around the eyes (especially in “Blue Liam,” with its raccoonlike mask of lavender). Opposite the Cobain tributes hang six drawings from the Chelsea Hotel show that don’t look so slapdash anymore. The 1992 “Princess Elizabeth Walking to Westminster With Queen Mary” may simultaneously call forth childhood infatuations with Elizabeth (you know who you are), evoke suave cartoons from The New Yorker and convey the essential isolation of a life engulfed by fame.
By fits and starts, this exhibition reveals the complicated fusion of the personal, the painterly and the Conceptual that informs Ms. Peyton’s work. Each image is a point on entwined strands of artistic or emotional growth, memorializing a relationship, acknowledging an inspiration or exposing an aspect of ambition. This implies an overriding narrative, which is unusual for an exhibition nearly devoid of text labels and unaccompanied by a meet-the-artist introductory video.
At the same time, Ms. Peyton is enthralled by the abstract power of paint as paint. Her broad brushstrokes and their sudden shifts function independently of her subjects. “Dallas, TX (January 1978)” shows a blond young man, John Lydon of the Sex Pistols, against a pale-orange background made luminous by the white gesso behind it and measured off by the repeating lines of the palette knife with which it was applied. His red-orange shirt is a lively tussle of brushstrokes. “Tokyo (Craig),” a nearly all-purple image that shows a figure in a darkened room, is but one example of Ms. Peyton’s extension of the modernist monochrome into everyday life.
You could say that Ms. Peyton paints two tribes: the one formed by the people she cares about and lives among, and the one that fills her imagination. Both tribes are present here, and not necessarily just in the art. Laura Hoptman, the New Museum curator, is a longtime friend of Ms. Peyton’s and is married to the painter Verne Dawson, who is represented by Mr. Brown. (Ms. Hoptman diagrams these connections in her readable, if effusive, catalog essay.) The show’s excellent design is by Jonathan Caplan, an architect and friend of Ms. Peyton who is depicted with his partner, the artist and writer Angus Cook, in a painting completed last year. Though this may appear incestuous, it is also evidence that Ms. Peyton’s particular tribe remains tight. Were she more opportunistic and had joined the galleries of Larry Gagosian or David Zwirner, as some of Mr. Brown’s artists have, the point would be moot.
In Mr. Caplan’s design, two-tone gray walls create the illusion of soft light and intimate scale while funneling visitors along a single, fairly chronological route through the two floors of the exhibition without seeming to do so. Several works are placed so that they are first seen from a distance, as if to challenge the idea that smallness means an image can’t carry. Drawings, paintings and a few prints are carefully grouped by subject, size and, it would appear, frame style (which reveals quite a bit about the different tastes and pretensions of collectors).
Since the late 1990s Ms. Peyton has increasingly portrayed friends and lovers, most of them artists, starting with the British provocateur Jake Chapman; and including the post-Conceptualist Rirkrit Tiravanija (Ms. Peyton’s former husband); the painter Tony Just, with whom she lived for several years; and the Polish artist Piotr Uklanski, all of whom are, or once were, also represented by Mr. Brown. A 1996 portrait of Mr. Uklanski, wearing a chartreuse shirt and lying on a red couch, is one of the show’s best paintings. Ms. Peyton’s work is fueled by dueling saturated colors, as evidenced by the bright primaries in a rare outdoor scene, “Ben Drawing,” and in the dominant reds keyed by browns and purples in “Jarvis and Liam Smoking.”
As Ms. Peyton moves into more personal territory, painting more from life than from photographs, her work deepens. Faces that once tended toward an elfin, Kabuki sameness become individualized. More is at stake. Among the famous and admired, the rock stars are replaced by Delacroix, Susan Sontag and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Ms. Peyton’s prominence is either a fluke or a further sign of the ascendancy of the feminine. Her art seems to belong to a strand of painting that has historically been dismissed or marginalized, and for which respect tends to come late, if at all. You could call it girly art. It includes the small still lifes of late Manet and the long careers of Giorgio Morandi and William Nicholson; the work of Marie Laurencin and Florine Stettheimer, who, like Ms. Peyton, chronicled their artistic circles; and the suggestive abstractions of O’Keeffe. The painting of O’Keeffe that concludes the show, based on a famous photograph by Alfred Stieglitz, is one of the weaker and larger works here. But that doesn’t stop this exhibition, which wears it heart on its sleeve and sheaths its ambition in a velvet glove, from striking a blow for the girl in all of us.
“Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton” runs through Jan. 11 at the New Museum, 235 Bowery, at Prince Street, Lower East Side, (212) 219-1222, newmuseum.org.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: October 14, 2008
An art review on Friday about “Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton,” at the New Museum, referred incorrectly to her solo show at the Chelsea Hotel in 1993. Her first solo show was at the Althea Viafora Gallery in SoHo in 1987; it was not the show at the Chelsea Hotel.
October 13, 2008 · Print This Article
via The Independent:
We may be living in the era of the email, but one young illustrator has proved that the art of correspondence is far from dead. While working for her degree at Glasgow School of Art Harriet Russell decided to find out exactly what lengths the men and women of the Royal Mail were willing to go to to ensure the safe delivery of her missives.
To put them to the test she concealed the addresses of 130 letters to herself in a series of increasingly complex puzzles and ciphers. Among the disguises she employed were dot-to-dot drawings, anagrams and cartoons. The answer, it seems, was very far indeed. Amazingly, only 10 failed to complete their journey back to her.
In another pleasing twist to the story, Ms Russell was unwittingly resurrecting a family tradition first begun by her great-great grandfather Henry Ponsonby, a private secretary to Queen Victoria and a veteran of the Crimean War. This eminent forebear embellished letters to his children at Eton with a series of illustrations in which he concealed the school’s address. It was a family quirk continued by his son, Arthur Ponsonby, a pacifist who went on to be Labour MP for Sheffield Brightside before his elevation to the House of Lords.
However, neither quite set about their task with the degree of invention employed by their 21st-century descendant who over the course of a year went to ever greater lengths to disguise her address.
These, it seemed gripped the imagination of Clydeside Royal Mail sorting workers as much as they did their author. Now the results of this unique and anonymous collaboration form the basis of a new book, Envelopes: A Puzzling Journey Through the Royal Mail, published by Allison & Busby, and hotly tipped as a stocking-filler hit this Christmas.
Ms Russell, 31, who now works from a studio in Wapping, east London, confesses that she had no idea her family had preceded her when it came to teasing the postman. She also admits she is no great letter writer, preferring to communicate by email: all the envelopes she sent contained nothing but blank sheets of paper.
She said: “It is an odd coincidence. We used to get a lot of wrongly addressed mail sent to our home, which was Shulbrede Priory in Surrey and that got me thinking about the postal system. The first one started as an experiment to see if it could get through.”
Among the initial batch of envelopes was a letter with the address written in mirror writing. But it was not until sorting office staff forwarded one in which her street name and number were the answer to a series of crossword clues that she realised someone was taking their job very seriously indeed. Especially when the letter eventually flopped on to her mat with the boxes filled in and bearing the proud message: “Solved by the Glasgow Mail Centre.”
She admits there were times when she worried that she might be in trouble for wasting Royal Mail time but still the letters continued to find their way back. “I was really quite amazed. I didn’t know who was doing it. I imagined there was a small group of them and I think they must have caught on because a lot of them were to the same address.” The identities of the sleuthing Royal Mail staff have never been established and Ms Russell, who also counts Hubert Parry, the composer of “Jerusalem” among her illustrious forebears, believes it is most likely they have moved on.
“I have never spoken to anyone and no one has come forward,” she said. “But it is clear they were taking part and involving themselves in it.”
The book, with its periodic tables, colour-blindness test and eye-chart addresses has already caused something of a stir in the United States although it is expected to do even better in the UK. The Bookseller has already described it as “a little treasure waiting to be discovered”.
Ms Russell said: “I started out not knowing anything about my relatives doing this so my family dug out some of their old letters to show me.”
For his part, Henry Ponsonby preferred whimsy to ciphers and cryptic clues. His letters bore addresses appearing as doodled signposts in snowstorms or as huge envelopes shouldered by tiny people.