ON MORE THAN ONE OCCASION, I’ve heard the work of Beatriz Milhazes, a young painter from Rio de Janeiro, characterized by the annoying snap judgment, “Interesting Frida Kahlo meets Philip Taaffe.” This assessment rankles, of course, because of the Kahlo connection. It’s as though, despite the enormous cultural and historical distance that separates Mexico half a century ago from contemporary Brazil, any woman painter from anywhere south of Texas must have emerged from the same current. What’s more, the equation of Milhazes and Kahlo elides the readily apparent stylistic differences between the latter, a self-mythologizing diarist, and the former, a discreetly Matissean sensualist so disengaged from self-reference that she cloaks even the traces of her own painterly gesture.

The Taaffe comparison is a bit more on target. Not just because of a common interest in decorative pattern, but because

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