Patrick Caulfield

Hayward Gallery

My, how time flies—six years on, and Patrick Caulfield’s up for another retrospective. (The last one was at London’s Serpentine Gallery, in 1992–93.) It’s one of those things a person can rely on, a little like the eternal return of the commodity. (In fact, a lot like it.) The Hayward Gallery is currently stocking fifty-five jazzy, glowing Caulfield desirables, dating from 1961 to 1997, most of them expertly handcrafted in genuine acrylics. The best place to start window-shopping is right in the middle, at the precooked meals section, with exhibit number 28: Unfinished Painting, 1978.

This work sets a place for the viewer and serves up a lavish slice of buttery, golden-yellow, store-bought quiche. Yes, it’s all for you. This central, photorealist passage of the painting hovers above the picture plane like a migraine aura (as opposed to the high-art sort, though the Benjaminian notion hovers

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