Critics’ Picks

Elizabeth Peyton, Flaubert in Egypt (After Delacroix), 2009–10, oil on board, 12 x 9”. Installation view.

Elizabeth Peyton, Flaubert in Egypt (After Delacroix), 2009–10, oil on board, 12 x 9”. Installation view.


Elizabeth Peyton

Linienstraße 155
July 23, 2013–July 3, 2010

In this exhibition, Elizabeth Peyton presents eighteen new works in a former ironmonger’s showroom, a run-down nineteenth-century space that survived the two world wars and the duration of the GDR untouched. One might be tempted to write off the choice of venue as a gimmick or an attempt to recapture the grungy mystique of Peyton’s early-1990s exhibitions. But in fact, it feels like neither. Instead, Neugerriemschneider’s off-site gallery is a pitch-perfect backdrop for her art; a crumbling setting that turns her paintings and drawings into subtle little reflections on time, place, and history.

As is usually the case with Peyton, there are several portraits of her well-known peers, including Olafur Eliasson and Jeremy Deller. But in these surrounds, the status of her sitters doesn’t distract as much as it has in the past: Even Larry Gagosian’s intense glare can’t trump the moodiness of the building or the quality of the painting that ensnares it. Alongside these present-day figures, Peyton offers some beautiful appropriations from Cézanne and Delacroix: In Flaubert in Egypt (After Delacroix) (all works cited 2009–10), for example, she remakes a detail from the Romantic artist’s Algerian Women in Their Apartments, 1834; while 2 Shells, and Cézanne Book is one of a series of still lifes with Cézannesque tilts. By installing these tributes amid images of her contemporaries, Peyton creates a historical continuity that the dilapidated space augments, a seamless art trajectory that the subjects, paintings, and artist are all part of. This is arguably the show’s greatest strength: It has a confidence that never tips over into cockiness, a quiet awareness that, even in a place of long-faded grandeur, the timelessness of the work can shine through.