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Kellina de Boer
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mardi
mars052013

Vogue Paris Translation: Elizabeth Peyton

Elizabeth Peyton, one of the favorite artists of Sofia Coppola, appeared in the February issue of Vogue Paris. Special thanks to Kamila Brudzynska for collaborating with me to translate the article from French to English for all of you to enjoy. What do you think, do you count yourself among the admirers of the art of Elizabeth Peyton?

On l'a comparée à Gainsborough, le peintre anglais du XVIIIe siècle. Au Français Ingres, le fabuliste néo-classique du XIXe siècle. À David Hockney, le dandy britannique du XXe siècle. Elizabeth Peyton, peintre new-yorkaise contemporaine, a pourtant un style unique : celui d'une groupie à l'amour inconditionnel. Ses sujets flirtent avec le monde des magazines people, mais elle se défend d'être une portraitiste mondaine. Elle l'a souvent dit : elle ne peint bien que ceux qu'elle admire et refuse les commandes. Il peut s'agir d'artistes de légende comme Georgia O'Keefe, de têtes couronnées comme le prince Harry, d'amis au look d'hipsters, ou de toutes les stars grunge et Brit pop de sa jeunesse : Liam et Noel Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker, Kurt Cobain, Jake Chapman... Sa touche délicate les transforme en elfes et éphèbes, dans leur tenue du jour, comme surpris au réveil. Aussi fantomatiques que la fumée de leurs cigarettes, pelotonnés dans un sofa ou penchés sur une guitare, ils semblent suspendus dans des instants de solitude intenses et photogéniques. Tous se ressemblent : pâles et filiformes, des mains disproportionnées, nez effilés, lèvres fines, yeux rêveurs. Elizabeth Peyton les peint d'après des photos découpées dans Rolling Stone, des pochettes de vinyles ou des photos de films, avec des coloris chatoyants de saphir, rubis ou émeraude.

Depuis quand la beauté était-elle un problème en art ?  C'est la question que sa deuxième exposition avait jetée à la face des critiques, en 1993, à sa sortie de la New York School of Visual Arts. La jeune diplômée, originaire du Connecticut — ses parents y ont une fabrique de bougies — l'avait installée avec son complice galeriste Gavin Brown dans le mythique hôtel Chelsea. Il fallait demander la clé de la chambre 828 pour aller rendre visite aux portraits de Napoléon, Marie-Antoinette et de la reine Elizabeth II. Roberta Smith, l'influente critique du New York Times, avait donné sa bénédiction. Cette peinture sans cynisme rompait radicalement avec l'abstraction conceptuelle et l'ironie démesurée à la Jeff Koons. Elle ouvrait l'ère d'un nouveau romantisme, épris d'androgynie et de jeunesse, préfiguration des noces de la mode et du rock célébrées aujourd'hui par un Hedi Slimane. Une décennie plus tard, le John Lennon tout aussi fragile d'Elizabeth Peyton allait chiffrer 600000 € en salle de ventes.

La rétrospective de 2009, ‹‹Live Forever›› au New Museum de New York, a été une occasion rare de scruter les yeux dans les yeux ces miniatures vibrantes de lumière, accrochées serrées. La centaine d'images incluait des portraits de son ami l'artiste Matthew Barney, de son ex-mari, l'artiste Rirkrit Tiravanija, de Michelle et Sasha Obama à la convention démocratique de 2008. ‹‹Pas de celebrities, mais des personnes qui font des choses››, expliquait-elle encore à la presse. L'artiste a rejoint l'écurie prestigieuse de Gagosian, devenue à son tour une idole pour les collectionneurs du monde entier. Ces jour-ci, cette gauchère qui voit le monde en 2D (un défaut congénital) expérimente : ‹‹Après la rétrospective, j'avais envie de faire des natures mortes. Je voulais m'exprimer sans faire de vrais "portraits". Ça m'a conduite à quelques images d'opéra.›› Entre zones d'ombre et tracés perçants, l'essence de ces nouveaux modèles wagnériens surgit entre deux huiles sur aluminium verni dédiées à Bowie ou son chien Felix. Derrière les ressemblances, une même aura de grandeur.

She has been compared to Gainsborough, an English painter from the 18th century. To the Frenchman Ingres, a neo-classical fabulist of the 19th century. To David Hockney, the British dandy of the 20th century. Elizabeth Peyton, a contemporary painter living in New York, however, has a unique style: that of a groupie of unconditional love. Her subjects flirt with the world of celebrity magazines, but she denies being a fashionable portraitist. She often says that she paints only those whom she admires and refuses orders. This may be legendary artists like Georgia O'Keefe, crowned heads such as Prince Harry, friends with the look of hipsters, or all of the grunge and Brit pop stars of her youth:  Liam and Noel Gallagher, Jarvis Cocker, Kurt Cobain, Jake Chapman… Her delicate touch transforms them into elves and ephebes in their casual clothes, as if caught waking up. As ghostly as the smoke of their cigarettes, huddled on a sofa or leaning on a guitar, they seem suspended in moments of intense and photogenic solitude. All of them are similar: pale and wiry, their hands are disproportionate, noses sharp, lips thin, eyes dreamy. Elizabeth Peyton paints from photos torn from Rolling Stone, from the sleeves of vinyl records, or from film stills, with shimmering colors of sapphire, ruby, or emerald.

Since when has beauty become the problem in art? This question was posed to critics by her second exhibition, when in 1993 she left the New York School of Visual Arts. The young graduate, originally from Connecticut — her parents own a candle factory — was installed in the mythical Chelsea Hotel with her accomplice, gallerist Gavin Brown. It was necessary to ask for the key to room 828 to go visit the portraits of Napoleon, Marie Antoinette, and Queen Elizabeth II. Roberta Smith, the influential critic of The New York Times, gave her blessing. This painting without cynicism broke radically with the conceptual abstraction and the exaggerated irony of Jeff Koons. She opened the era of a new romanticism, the love of androgyny and of youth, foreshadowing the marriage of fashion and rock celebrated today by Hedi Slimane. A decade later, the equally fragile John Lennon by Elizabeth Peyton would be valued at €600,000 in the sales room.

The retrospective of 2009, "Live Forever" at the New Museum in New York, was a rare opportunity to examine eye to eye these thumbnails vibrating with light, hung closely. The hundred images included portraits of her friend the artist Matthew Barney, of her ex-husband, the artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, of Michelle and Sasha Obama at the Democratic Convention of 2008. "Not celebrities, but people who do things," she explained further to the press. The artist has joined the prestigious Gagosian stable, which in turn became an idol of collectors worldwide. These days she, this left-hander who sees the world in 2D (a congenital defect), experiments: "After the retrospective, I wanted to do still lifes. I wanted to express myself without real 'portraits.' It took me to a few images of opera." Between the grey areas and the sharply drawn, the essence of these new Wagnerian models arises between two oils on painted aluminum dedicated to Bowie or her dog Felix. Beyond the similarities, the same aura of grandeur.

Translation from French to English by Kamila Brudzynska and Kellina de Boer

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Vogue Paris editorial image © 2013  Condé Nast. All Rights Reserved. Elizabeth Peyton paintings courtesy of the artist.

Reader Comments (3)

Off the topic of the artist (and thank you for introducing me to her!) and as a linguist I must say the translation was a tour de force Kamila and Kellina!
18 mars 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristin
Thank you for your kind compliment, Kristin, most appreciated! It is a pleasure to introduce you to the work of Elizabeth Peyton, enjoy!
18 mars 2013 | Registered Commenterkellina
not sure how I missed this, but I love this elizabeth peyton translation and article...I always think of sofia when I look at her art work, love it, kellina! beautiful montage :)
27 mai 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdara

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