American artist Elizabeth Peyton has been credited with infusing the ancient art of portraiture with a new life. Her idealized, highly stylized oil paintings, drawings and watercolours are driven by the emotional, adoring eye of an unrequited lover. Willowy, melancholy young men and women -- contemporary pop stars, royalty, artists and friends -- are the magnetic subjects of her devotion. Caught as if in a state of ambiguous absorption and frozen at the height of their youth, they embody a new kind of portraiture that confirms and updates the immortalizing aura of the traditional genre. Peyton's melding of influences and obsessions ranges widely: from fandom and fashion illustration to academic anatomical studies; from David Hockney and Andy Warhol to a range of Mannerist and Old Master classics; from innocence to the world of bohemia, equally crediting photography and life drawing as its driving forces. Her enamoured yet refreshingly economic, informal, light wash technique underscores her uniquely delicate, informed hybrid of high and low culture, a statement executed with infectious, seemingly effortless fluidity.
Laura Hoptman is Kraus Family Senior Curator at the New Museum, New York, where her exhibitions have included 'Unmonumental' (2007, co-curated with Richard Flood and Massimiliano Gioni), 'Tomma Abts' (2008) and 'Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton'. Iwona Blazwick is Director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London. Previously she was Head of Exhibitions and Displays at Tate Modern and Commissioning Editor of Contemporary Art at Phaidon Press. John Giorno is a poet, performance artist and AIDS activist and fundraiser whose collaborators have included William Burroughs, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson and Robert Mapplethorpe.
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