new-york

Paula Rego

Marlborough Gallery | New York

The point of departure for Paula Rego’s sardonic, allegorical pastel paintings, rendered in a realist style at once blunt and exquisite, is Walt Disney’s parody of classical ballet in Fantasia. In Disney’s send-up, ungainly ostriches dressed in black unself-consciously cavort and the graceful, high art of ballet becomes a grotesquerie. In her treatment, Rego changes the animal dancers back into women, without, however, restoring the artificial standards of beauty imposed by balletic ideals. While her subjects in Dancing Ostriches from Walt Disney’s Fantasia, 1995, seem closer to bears than birds, they remain performing animals nonetheless. Rego’s point is, after all, a powerfully feminist one: ballet takes the natural female body, in all its imperfections, and constrains it until it seems artificial and perfect. She revolts against this distorted measure of formal beauty, which in fact

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