corpses and nymphs


As existentialist injunctions go, “Measur[e] your own grave” and “Live forever” could be said to represent polar opposites, of heaven and (literally) earth. And yet, the painters to whom these phrases serve as subtitles for their museum surveys, respectively at the Modern and the New, are anything but opposed. It is not as if, for instance, Elizabeth Peyton has the exclusive on ethereality, Marlene Dumas on groundedness. Indeed, Peyton and Dumas, though different ages and with markedly contrastive personal histories, could be construed as soul sisters. In the manner of that Greek legend where different maidens lined up to inspire separate body parts for the statue of a goddess, these two artists could almost be enlisted to collaborate on a portrait of the postmodern (and post- or neo-feminist) condition, one that in painterly touch and depictive attitude alike is torn between intimacy and remoteness, memory and visceral presence. And this collaboration would take place without a major compromise on either’s part in terms of modus operandi, touch, or – deep down – philosophy.

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