Sunday, May 12, 2013

Elizabeth Peyton and Critiquing Art

Before her show at Gavin Brown closed I decided to check it out.  Her work has always been somewhat of a mystery to me.  I never understood why her paintings are so sought-after in the art world... she paints photographs of celebrities... so what!

Until this show I have only seen her works in person once or twice and I have never seen more than two at a time.  Viewing her paintings and drawings at Gavin Brown, I have a slightly better understanding of why her work gains so much attention.  For one thing, her art is authentic… there is nothing gimmicky about it, and to me, authenticity is certainly what matters most in the evaluation or assessment of art.  Her fresh, light, delicate brushwork of translucent strokes, and pastel colors makes her work unique and charming.  Those qualities alone make her exhibitions worth going to.  But does that explain why she is one of the most successful painters working today?  But then again I think it is rare in the art world for artists to gain recognition based solely on their art.

Getting slightly off topic, let me use this opportunity to explain my criticism of artwork on this blog; I've been a bit more harsh on Elizabeth Peyton than I normally am regarding the art I post and if any of you are wondering why I'll explain.  Generally I assess artwork according to three types of artists: the outsider artist, the emerging artist, and the established/blue chip artist.

Outsider artists are tricky to critique because of this one essential question: Is the naïve/primitive style deliberate or because of lack of technical skill?  In other words, do they know what they are doing, or are they just doing what they do? A follow up question to that would be: does it matter if their style of art is deliberate or not?

I tend to critique the work of emerging artists with a smile, encouragement, and a feeling of camaraderie.  These are the types of people that I feature most on this blog, and they are the ones that I'm most likely to become friends with and read my posts.

On the other hand, when I review the art of established artist I can't help but to do so with an extra critical eye.  I suppose I react this way because they are an easy target being at the top of their profession and because there is a grain of jealousy on my part; What makes their art so special that they are able to gain recognition and I'm still working multiple jobs with my art in piles in my garage?  I know that that perspective is immature and negative, but I think a lot of artists feel like that sometimes.  Anyway, I try to keep it all in perspective... after all, if an artist is making work with the expectation of gaining recognition and achieving monetary success they are  in the wrong line of work.

Lastly, this is a good description of Elizabeth Peyton's art that I found on Wikipedia...
"Her paintings are characterized by elongated, slender figures with androgynous features.  Sexually ambiguous, feminine qualities are regularly emphasised.  Her work at times resembles fashion illustration.  [...]  
In her paintings, Peyton hardly ever depicts these often young artists and musicians standing, and she never visually associates them with an activity like making art or music; instead, they are portrayed sleeping, reclining, or sitting."

These last two paintings were my favorite in the show.  I don't care who is portrayed in the paintings... they're beautiful and mysterious...

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