Paula Rego (Lisbon, 1935) is one of the most important figurative painters on the international scene and one of the most lucid and combative artistic voices that has emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. Rego's artistic production is rooted in personal experiences and memories, in sinister fantasies and in the history of art and literature. In the early fifties she moves to England to study at the Slade School of Fine Art and adopts London as her primary residence.
Distant to momentary fads, Rego has always practiced figurative painting in very different ways and is one of the few modern artists whose work revolves around life itself, as did her predecessors who she vindicated, Goya and Hogarth, revealing the best and the worst of human condition. Her work has a clear subversive and liberating desire, an evident dimension of struggle against authority. In it the artist speaks of domination, oppression and violence with which she questions socially imposed stereotypes. With amazing fidelity to her experience of the world inspired by the memories of her lonely but magical childhood in Portugal and in the many roles she has played in her life, Rego has created a deeply moving and human work with a passionate and energetic language.
This exhibition is her most comprehensive retrospective and covers her entire career through important groups of pieces from each period, allowing a further exploration of the interrelationship of different registers, as well as the evolution of the artist as a journey through the mind and complexity of life experiences. It begins with a piece from when she was a student, and continues with political paintings and collages, fuelled by hatred towards the regime of Salazar and produced in a free style during the Fifties and early sixties. After a period of artistic emptiness, she resumes her production in the early eighties with large pieces and seamless execution, painted in acrylic on paper. The exhibition also presents pastels on large format, perhaps her most well-known at present, substantial groups of prints, which, since the late 1980s make up a significant part of her production and a selection of her many drawings, many of which are displayed for the first time to the public.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington (February 1 - May 25, 2008)