New York

Julie Heffernan

P.P.O.W. Gallery / Littlejohn Contemporary

Julie Heffernan’s imagination looks suspiciously like the gift shop at some tourist-thronged beaux arts museum—the Prado, say, or maybe the Frick. Everywhere in her lavishly rhetorical paintings are passages borrowed from Spanish still lies, Flemish landscapes, English pet portraits, and furtive, nightmarish Goya vignettes. In her foregrounds, pale red-haired figures, all titular self-portraits, flaunt the dark-lipped Hapsburg underbite fixed in our memories by Velázquez (imagine Philip IV played by a naked Tilda Swinton). That underbite, the notorious symptom of royal inbreeding, suggests a comparable aristophilia in Heffernan: a pampered appetite for canonical art history. She likes the varnished world of the old masters, and she serves it up to us in the form of flamboyant, idiosyncratic pastiche. One can’t help thinking that her art springs from a bad, obvious idea—a kind of

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