Biography

b. March 31, 1929, Hanover, New Hampshire
d. November 11, 1989, Oakland, California

Jay DeFeo was a groundbreaking artist whose career spanned four decades and many genres. She accomplished her very personal, intimate vision using every medium available to her, including painting, sculpture, drawing, collage, photography, and Xeroxed imagery. DeFeo is well known for her monumental painting The Rose, a massive canvas laden with thick layers of paint that took the artist eight years to complete. DeFeo became a pivotal figure in San Francisco’s historic community of artists, poets and jazz musicians. She began incorporating the dualities of representation and abstraction, organic rhythms and geometric form, refinement and expressionism that became distinguishing traits of her art. DeFeo worked with unorthodox materials to explore the broadest definitions of sculpture, drawing, collage and painting.

DeFeo’s exhibition career began in the late 1950s, with her first major solo show held at Dilexi Gallery in San Francisco. In 1959 DeFeo’s art, along with that of Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson, and others, was included in Dorothy Miller’s momentous exhibition Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles mounted her next solo exhibition in 1960. Her first solo museum show took place in 1969 at the Pasadena Art Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Art, where The Rose was exhibited for the first time. DeFeo’s work is included in many public collections, notably those of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; and the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, among others.  

All images © 2014 The Jay DeFeo Trust/Artist Rights Society/ARS New York.  
Images may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the trust.