Fiona Rae

PaceWildenstein 22

It’s hard not to see Fiona Rae’s paintings as pastiches of the work of Sigmar Polke and David Salle, with some burly Schnabelesque gestures and lavish Pollock-like splashes thrown in. Hers is a sort of Punch-and-Judy act that tries hard to be ironic theater but ends up an ersatz Fantasia. There’s also a discrepancy between the titles and the works themselves: The former promise a big thrill, the latter offer only mild titillation—coy allusions to aesthetic bliss that never reach a climax. It’s like a simulated sex act, a ritualized performance. Theodor Adorno once wrote that in a false world all pleasure is false; the pleasure in Rae’s painting is false in this sense—cosmetically pleasing rather than emotionally prickly, sloppily beautiful rather than eloquently harmonious.

I’m learning to fly!!, 2006, is typical, a facile mix of the corny, the cute, and the cartoony—little hearts (black

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