Rebecca Rau: Bait and Tackle
April 22 - May 28, 2022
here is pleased to present, Bait and Tackle, a solo exhibition by Brooklyn-based and largely self-taught painter, Rebecca Rau. The opening reception will take place Friday, April 22nd, from 6 to 8pm.
Bait and Tackle features nine new paintings by Rau that reveal the artist’s immediate desire to capture her sitter’s energy by trapping them in either quasi-mythic narratives or deeply symbolic dream-worlds. Working from life and photographs, Rau’s mostly male models (muses) are the genesis for each painting. Rather than subscribing to the idea that portraiture is about capturing a moment of intimacy, Rau sees portraiture as a tool to regulate intimacy, to create a physical and metaphorical barrier between her and her sitter.
Significantly, in each painting, there is a meeting of figure and fish. Rau’s seated or reclining men and women seem virtually unaware of the fish that cling to or consume their bodies. Although, the titles, Other Ways to Catch Fish or Other Ways to Wear Fish, suggest a mutually beneficial relationship between figure and fish—a relationship built on nourishment, fertility or simply accessorizing. In one of Rau’s few female portraits, Other Ways to Catch Fish, No. 5, the artist’s pregnant sister stands ankle-deep in water with a fish at her breast in a contemporary take on Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, where a nude Venus emerges on the beach after her birth with long, flowing blonde curls draped along her body.
The idea of the fish came to Rau from a dream she had many years ago, yet fish have also been a symbol in art and texts throughout many cultures, over many centuries. Rau agrees that nothing has more symbolic opportunities than a fish. For art historians, the fish symbolizes the origin of life (the idea that life originated from the water), while dream-interpreters often associate the fish with embodying desires of the flesh. Furthermore, the pictorial symbolism of the fish has long been used to proclaim affiliation with Christianity. However, for Rau, there is a more direct sense-memory associated with fish—their slippery bodies that flap around above water as a strong tactile, corporeal experience to metaphor. Rau remarks: “Every time I think I’m done with them [fish] they find their way back in…fighting their way upstream to get into the picture. When I put my foot down and say ‘NO’ it gets even worse, like with the picture of Brian. They poured out of the water and devoured his chair.”
Rebecca Rau (b. 1989, Chicago, IL) has exhibited her work at Art du Q, Montreal; The Watershed, Galway, Ireland and Loma Vista Gallery, Big Sur, CA. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.