Ghost: Elizabeth Peyton

Elizabeth Peyton, Julian, 2006.

Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum to survey prints by acclaimed portraitist Jan. 28 to April 18

Posted by Liam Otten January 7, 2011

One of the most celebrated American painters of her generation, Elizabeth Peyton is among today's foremost contemporary figurative artists and a renowned chronicler of modern life. Her subjects include personal friends and heroes as well as visual artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and Robert Mapplethorpe, and historical and cultural figures ranging from William Shakespeare and Richard Wagner to Eminem and Chloë Sevigny.

In January, the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum will present Ghost: Elizabeth Peyton, the most extensive critical survey of Peyton's work as a printmaker to date. Organized by Sabine Eckmann, PhD, the Museum's William T. Kemper Director and Chief Curator, the exhibition will include more than four dozen works produced between 1998 and 2010, ranging from etchings and aquatints to lithographs, monotypes and hand-printed Ukiyo-e woodcuts. (Since 2002, all of Peyton's prints have been produced in collaboration with Two Palms Press, an independent print studio in New York City.)

As a printmaker, Peyton revives the tradition of the 'painterly print' or monotype — famously utilized by artists such as Edgar Degas — yet also adapts it and other techniques to her own contemporary practice. Like her paintings, Peyton's prints merge the subjective beauty and individuality of her subjects with the formal characteristics and exquisite expressive potentials of her chosen medium. For example, though Peyton's monotypes, lithographs and woodcuts frequently reproduce the lush and richly textured qualities of the painted brushstroke, her etchings are largely characterized by the delicate, refined contours of the masterfully drawn line. Indeed, it is typical for Peyton's prints to emphasize — through form, process and brushwork — the hand of the artist at work.

Peyton's most recent prints, such as the still life Flowers and Actaeon, January 2009 (2009), are among her most painterly and find the artist increasingly shifting between figuration and abstraction. At the same time, Peyton pays homage to a number of historical figures, including the painter Paul Cézanne; German composer Richard Wagner; heldentenor Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld; and Schnorr's wife, Malvina, a soprano. She also references works by French sculptor Camille Claudel, notably Claudel's 1905 group sculpture Vertumnus and Pomona, as well as a mask of Claudel's face created by her lover and friend Auguste Rodin. These prints, like Peyton's very earliest, balance a series of dichotomies — high art and popular culture; stylization and subjectivity; realism and fiction; beauty and visual pleasure — while capturing the viewer's imagination through dramatic brushwork, intense color and richly modulated surfaces.

Concurrent with its exhibition at the Kemper Art Museum, Ghost: Elizabeth Peyton also will be presented at the Opelvillen in Rüsselsheim, Germany. That iteration will be curated by director Beate Kemfert.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a monograph, Ghost: Elizabeth Peyton, jointly published by Hatje Cantz, the Opelvillen and the Kemper Art Museum. An in-depth exploration of Peyton as a critical printmaker, the volume includes an essay by Eckmann as well as contributions by the writer and critic Hilton Als and by David Lasry, director of Two Palms Press. In addition, the monograph — which is designed by Joseph Logan — features an interview with Peyton conducted by Kemfert and more than 70 of Peyton's prints in color.

About the artist

Born in 1965 in Danbury, Conn., Peyton earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1987 from the School of Visual Arts in New York. In the years since, her works have been featured in more than 50 solo exhibitions and dozens of group shows. They are included in major public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, both in New York; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; the Saint Louis Art Museum; the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg, Germany; and the Museum fur Gegenwartskunst in Basel, Switzerland. She lives and works in New York.

Support for Ghost: Elizabeth Peyton is provided by James M. Kemper, Jr.;
the David Woods Kemper Memorial Foundation; the Missouri Arts Council, a
state agency; and members of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

Image credit: Elizabeth Peyton, Julian, 2006. 55-color handprinted Ukiyo-e woodcut, 17 x 12 7/8". Courtesy of Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York.