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 © 2018 The Jay DeFeo Foundation /Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Images may not be reproduced in any form without permission from the foundation.
Curated by Paul Galvez
The exhibition presents new work by Bay Area photographer Jennifer Brandon, shown in conjunction with rarely seen photocopies and photographs by groundbreaking visual artist Jay DeFeo.
Please join us for a special walk through with Dana Miller, whose essay is featured in the exhibition catalogue, on Thursday, March 1 at 5 PM in advance of the opening from 6 to 8 PM at our Chelsea location.
A conversation between artist Karl Haendel and Leah Levy, director of The Jay DeFeo Foundation, moderated by Claire Gilman, chief curator of The Drawing Center, on the occasion of Karl Haendel & Jay DeFeo: Pink Cup and The Facts at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY.
Making Space shines a spotlight on the stunning achievements of women artists between the end of World War II (1945) and the start of the Feminist movement (around 1968). Drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition features nearly 100 paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, prints, textiles, and ceramics by more than 50 artists. Jay DeFeo is represented by Blossom (1958).
Where we are focuses on works from the Whitney’s collection made between 1900 and 1960, a tumultuous period in the history of the United States when life in the country changed drastically due to war, economic collapse, and demands for civil rights. Artists responded in complex and diverse ways, and the exhibition honors their efforts to put forward new ways of presenting the self and American life. Jay DeFeo is represented by The Eyes (1958).
This exhibition brings together a selection of California artists who emerged following the Second World War and took advantage of the region’s permissive atmosphere to help create a thriving new art scene. Artists like John Altoon, Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, Jay DeFeo, George Herms, and Edward Kienholz were part of a “Beat” generation, whose social critiques would eventually be incorporated into the counterculture and social protest movements that shaped the second half of the 20th century.
The solo exhibition highlights DeFeo’s Samurai series, a body of paintings on heavy paper influenced by DeFeo’s 1985 trip to Japan as well as the exhibition Spectacular Helmets of Japan, 16 – 19th Century, which she viewed the same year in San Francisco.
Women of Abstract Expressionism is the first major museum exhibition to focus on the groundbreaking women artists affiliated with the Abstract Expressionist movement during its seminal years, between 1945 and 1960.
When the Whitney Museum of American Art opens its new Renzo Piano-designed home in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District on May 1, 2015, the first exhibition on view will be an unprecedented selection of works from the Museum’s renowned permanent collection. Setting forth a distinctly new narrative, America Is Hard to See presents fresh perspectives on the Whitney’s collection and reflects upon art in the United States with over 600 works by some 400 artists, spanning the period from about 1900 to the present. The exhibition—its title is taken from a poem by Robert Frost and also used by the filmmaker Emile de Antonio for one of his political documentaries—is the most ambitious display to date of the Whitney’s collection.
One of the recurring themes in California art over the past century is the relationship between abstraction and landscape. Particularly in Southern California, a deep schism opened up in the 1930s between naturalist landscape painters and those of a more modernist inclination, and the breach has never entirely healed. This exhibition, drawn entirely from OCMA’s collection, explores ways in which artists from the West Coast have played a role in transforming landscape into abstraction and then back again.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash is delighted to announce the nominations of Rob Pruitt's 2013 Art Awards.
Jay DeFeo, Virginia Overton and Jack Goldstein are nominated for Artist of the Year, Solo Gallery Show of the Year and Solo Museum Show of the Year, respectively.
Experiments in the Fault Zone traces some of the key moments and pivotal artistic figures in the arts at Mills from the 1930s to the present, and showcases the College’s internationally renowned commitment to experimentation and collaboration across the fine arts.
Highlights of the SFMOMA's Collection
Beyond Belief is an expansive exhibition exploring the spiritual dimensions of modern art, especially as seen through the lens of Jewish theological concepts. The exhibition features forty-eight internationally-known artists whose work—painting, sculpture, photography, video, and installation art—are all drawn from SFMOMA’s outstanding collection. Ranging from a 1914 abstraction by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian to a luminous 1960 abstraction by Mark Rothko and oversized prayer beads by contemporary artist Zarina, Beyond Belief provides an engaging alternative that prioritizes spirituality in the reading of art.
Screened in conjunction with Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective, Bruce Conner’s short film, THE WHITE ROSE (1967), chronicles the removal of DeFeo’s nearly one-ton masterpiece, The Rose (1958-66), from her second-story San Francisco studio.
BEST MONOGRAPHIC MUSEUM SHOW NATIONALLY
“Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; travels to the Whitney Museum of American Art. Organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Dana Miller, curator.
Among the seventy fascinatingly varied works on view in this decades-spanning show is an untitled piece, from 1973, that meets the barest definition of a collage—it’s a single rose, cut carefully from a black-and-white photo, floating on a white background. With this breezy, refined gesture, the artist, who worked in the San Francisco Bay area until her death, in 1989, conjures her most famous painting, “The Rose,” from 1958-1966, which, as a Sisyphean two-ton grisaille relief, could not be more different.
DeFeo was after something other than a chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and an umbrella. For her, surrealism was not a technique, but a state of seeing and experiencing everyday life.
In dream analysis, it’s said that the familiar nightmare of one’s teeth falling out represents anxiety over the possible loss of control. Fading beauty, or an inability to communicate might cause such a dream, but so too might a more catastrophic event: an illness or an eviction, perhaps. For artist Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) any of these occurrences could have provoked such a night terror, and walking through Outrageous Fortune: Jay DeFeo and Surrealism at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, one can’t help but wonder if teeth dreams had plagued her. The exhibition takes as its premise the thrum of Surrealism that murmurs through DeFeo’s body of work, and the reappearance of teeth is one of several tropes that surface.
It is in the post-Rose period that DeFeo experimented with new techniques or applications, things like cameraless photography and collage. Bruce Conner, the Rat Bastard leader, had suggested that DeFeo take pictures of the “things [around her] and turn them into other stuff . . . collage things.”) As described in the exhibition’s catalog by Dana Miller, The Whitney Museum’s Director of the Collection, DeFeo’s experiments, which the artist described as play, “meant not only taking risks, but also, at key moments, sharing authorship with forces of nature, randomness, or accident.” The irony is how DeFeo would come to embrace chance after methodically working on The Rose—one work—for nearly eight years.
Featuring over 70 of the Beat generation artist’s works, “Outrageous Fortune” will showcase paintings, photographs, collages, and works on paper from Jay DeFeo’s oeuvre over the course of three decades, from 1955 to 1986. In a similar way to how the Dadaists and Surrealists invoked various symbolic emblems through unlike subjects, DeFeo’s juxtaposition of forms and mixed-media approaches messed with the role chance plays in art-making. The show will act as a teaser for New York audiences who can’t make it to Dijon, France, for a major survey of DeFeo’s work at Le Consortium.
In the career of Jay DeFeo, her astonishing painting The Rose (1958–66) casts a long shadow. Spanning almost 11 by eight feet, it has a primordial-looking surface of oil paint mixed with wood and mica so heavily built up and excavated that it weighs more than a ton. This abstract, sculptural canvas, with radiating vectors that converge at a center point, occupied DeFeo for eight years—consuming her entirely for the last five of those. The Rose acquired mythic status when the artist Bruce Conner, her close friend, filmed it being cut out of the window of DeFeo’s Fillmore Street studio in San Francisco, in 1965, then hoisted by forklift onto a truck, and transported to the Pasadena Art Museum.
This will be the gallery’s second exhibition of these artists and the first time the two will be exhibited together. The exhibition showcases the relation between the works of the artists which are based on the process of making drawings.
This installation of the DeFeo's “Samurai” series, 1986–87, begins to redress this narrative, as many of these large-format paintings on paper refute the notion of a singularly careful and slow-working painter.
Today, Jay DeFeo ranks among the better-known female artists of the era, but only after flying under the radar for many years. Best-known for her monumental painting The Rose, which is 10 feet tall, almost a foot thick, and weighs over a ton, DeFeo was the subject of a long-overdue retrospective organized by New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art in 2012–13.
Whitney decided to open her own museum, on West Eighth Street, in 1931, and appointed Force its director. Since then, seven directors have overseen the growth of the collection, which now contains twenty-two thousand items, seventeen thousand of them works on paper. There are such touchstones as Alexander Calder’s “Circus” (1926-31), Arshile Gorky’s “The Artist and His Mother” (1926-36), Jasper Johns’s “Three Flags” (1958), Jay DeFeo’s massive relief “The Rose” (1958-66), Willem de Kooning’s “Door to the River” (1960), Nan Goldin’s slide-show installation “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” (1979-96), and Mike Kelley’s caustic stuffed-animal array “More Love Hours Than Can Ever Be Repaid” (1987). But the collection lacks depth in most major artists, with the important exception of Edward Hopper. The Whitney has the largest concentration of his art anywhere, including such paintings as “Railroad Sunset” (1929) and the storefront epiphany “Early Sunday Morning” (1930), along with more than twenty-five hundred drawings. By ever more general agreement, Hopper is this country’s painter laureate, or, as De Salvo calls him, “our Picasso.”
This exhibition--which focused on Jay DeFeo's production following her three-year hiatus from artmaking after her completion of The Rose, 1958-66, her famous, one-ton painting of a burst of white light--gathered forty-nine pieces from the last fifteen years of the artist's life, several of which were absent from her recent traveling US retrospective. DeFeo, whos early work was animated by jazz and Beat subcultures and by the varied frequencies coursing through the San Francisco Renaissance, was also well known for her round-the-clock, sedulous-yet-playful ingenuity. She worked quickly until the end; many of the pieces here were produced in the last four years of her life, the most industrious period of her career.
The Rose, DeFeo's sculpture-cum-painting over which she lavored for eight years, dominated discussions of her retrospective last year. This show of drawings, photographs, and collages, free from the shadow of its myth, allows consideration of her wry improvisations and neo-Surrealist approach.
A riveting follow-up to last year’s Jay DeFeo retrospective at the Whitney Museum, this exhibition of drawings, photographs and photocopies finds this artist moving past her ponderous masterpiece, “The Rose,” in fits and starts.
"That’s why a show like the one currently up at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, which homes in on her post-“Rose” output until her death in 1989, is still direly important. The gallery curators have mined DeFeo’s archives to present works never before exhibited, including photographs, photocopies, and collages, next to more well-known pieces such as “Tuxedo Junction” (1965/1974) and “Seven Pillars of Wisdom No. 6” (1989). Laid out according to subject rather than chronology, the effect is that of a forensic case study, tracing a path from the everyday objects she called her “models” to her “portraits” — incisive studies she made across media — to her paintings, where the original subject is less abstracted than obscured by the history of her experimentation and transformations."
Mitchell-Innes & Nash
May 1-June 7
The Rose, DeFeo’s enormous sculpture-cum-painting over which she labored for eight years, dominated discussions of her Whitney retrospective last year. This show of 50 small-scale drawings, photographs and collages, free from the shadow of its myth, allows us to consider DeFeo’s wry improvisations and neo-Surrealist approach. An untitled photocollage c. 1975–76 sees a ghostly hand against a black background above an overflowing basket propped up by a silhouetted cutaway; the totem-like form makes the organic uncanny, which is one of the artist’s prevailing motifs.
DeFeo (1929–1989) became legendary for her single-minded focus in creating The Rose, her monumental abstract canvas that took eight years to complete. This show, featuring paintings, works on paper and photos, is the first to exhibit her efforts since a 2013 Whitney retrospective.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Jay DeFeo, closes June 7.
Long reduced to a footnote of 20th century art history, DeFeo (1929–1989), previously remembered largely for The Rose (1958–66), her monumental, massively thick relief painting, came roaring back into the public consciousness with her impressive 2012–13 retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Her current show at Mitchell-Innes & Nash continues the trend with a selection of DeFeo’s 1970s experiments in photography, an assortment of drawings and collages, and her late-in-life return to oil painting. DeFeo’s distinctive exploration of form and repetition of shape, as well as her fascination with space and depth of field, are seen throughout the exhibition. Limited to a largely gray-scale palette, save for a few sepia-toned works, the show has Dadaist undertones, especially in DeFeo’s still life photography. De-contextualized close-ups of pedestrian items like a head of cauliflower or a kitschy seashell lighting fixture take on an unsettling, almost otherworldly quality, reminding the viewer of DeFeo’s uncanny ability to create the illusion of texture and three-dimensionality even in her flat works.
"It was such a brilliant, mind-blowing exhibition," says Lucy Mitchell-Innes of the Whitney's Museum of Amercan Art's lauded 2013 Jay DeFeo retrospective, "that we were quite intimidated to follow on that." So, for the first presentation since the blockbuster of the late Bay Area artist's AbEx-tinged work at Mitchell-Innes & Nash in Chelsea, the dealer confides, "we had to develop another narrative that shows a different side of Jay." For the show, running May 1 through June 7, she assembled nearly 50 collages, drawings, paintings, and photographs from the 1960s through the 1980s that reveal DeFeo's dogged ursuit of specific formal elements across media-say, the sculptural qualities of wadded Kleenex, in one surprisingly affecting group of photographs, photocopies, and paintings. "The way she would play around with scale, fragments would take on a life of their own," notes Mitchell-Innes. And the way the works speak to one another, she says, demonstrates "the integrity of the vision, the consistency of it-and the intensity. Emotionally, the work is just right out there."
Blockbuster alert! Hot on the heels of the Whitneyʼs illuminating 2013 Jay DeFeo
(1929–89) retrospective, MIN is showing work from 1965 through the end of her
life. Forty-eight total pieces, folks: collage, painting, photography, photocopying(!)
and more. Not to be missed. (Pictured in the slide show is 1972's White Shadow.)
Last year’s Jay DeFeo retrospective at the Whitney Museum confirmed the Bay Area artist, who lived from 1929 to 1989, as one of postwar America’s great, unsung artistic figures. Known pretty much solely for The Rose, the sizable masterwork of a painting she labored on for eight years, from 1958 through 1966, it was revealed that she also produced spooky, spectral drawings and photographs. This will be the DeFeo Trust's first show with the gallery, and will focus on works from the 1970s and '80s, including never-before-shown photocopy works. Walead Beshty will contribute a catalogue essay.
"Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective" at the Whitney Museum of American Art among the top ten shows of the 2013, reviewed by Tyler Green. He states, "Curator Dana Miller's exhibition was a thrill from beginning to end, from early work regularly shown on the West Coast to late paintings that almost no one has seen before."
Author and scholar Paul Sternberger reviews Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective, the exhibition catalogue published in conjunction with the Whitney Museum of American Art's recent retrospective of the same name. This retrospective is the definitive exhibition to date of the work of Jay DeFeo (1929–89).
The catalogue was written by Dana Miller, Curator of the Whitney's Permanent Collection, with contributions by Michael Duncan, Corey Keller, Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, and Greil Marcus.
“Civilization,” Gertrude Stein says, “begins with a rose.” And also: “It continues with blooming and it fastens clearly upon excellent examples.”
You understand what she means when you stand before Jay DeFeo’s massive painting The Rose, a two-ton, twelve-feet-tall canvas sculpted in oil, wood, and mica, a bold burst of grisaille. At the Whitney Museum of Art, where the work is part of the permanent collection, it hangs like an altarpiece, the focal point of a retrospective of DeFeo’s art.
JAY DEFEO (1929-1989) is not exactly an obscure artist. A leading light of the small but thriving San Francisco art scene of the 1950s, she remains well known for creating The Rose (1958-66).
Most artists fail in what they try to do. The reasons range from an encyclopedia of faults and mistakes to the myriad variants of bad luck. The fact is too melancholy to tempt much contemplation.
“Anything for Jay” is a phrase that Dana Miller, the curator of “Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective” at the Whitney Museum of American Art, heard time and again when asking for research help for the show.