Lani Asher reviews Jay DeFeo: Alter Ego at Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco, on view through October 10, 2015.
Asher writes: "DeFeo’s metaphysical but concrete art functions in much the same way: the act of mirroring, or flipping images over and around, of changing black to white, of cutting through the surface of something, of changing liquid to solid, of waking and sleeping, of returning a different person to the place where you began your journey: such transformations are the very sensibilities of DeFeo’s art, not one of mere sentences but one of propositions, abstract, as direct as they are elusive, subtle, alive to indispensable distinctions."
Lucy Mitchell-Innes discusses the exhibition of works by Jay DeFeo on view at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York through June 7, 2014.
Mitchell-Innes comments that in the works on view in the show DeFeo employs "the photographic process and process of development to produce painterly techniques… to make it feel like a painting. And that was part of the thinking in the whole exhibition was to be able to show how she could move back and forth between one medium and another and still be completely consistent with the imagery and process… that you could look at a work on paper or a painting or a photograph or a xerox and you could see the consistent vision of what she was trying to accomplish."
Sarah Cowan reviews the exhibition Jay DeFeo at Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, on view through June 7, 2014.
Cowan writes that it is important that the show "homes in on [DeFeo's] post-'Rose' output until her death in 1989... DeFeo's reputation is too closely linked to the overly dramatic narrative of The Rose, she writes: "DeFeo comes out of this narrative looking like a misunderstood martyr and naive visionary: she was legendary in the San Francisco art scene; she was an anti-art-establishment bohemian; she wasn’t a good businesswoman; she was a muse; she was a one-hit wonder; she was a perfectionist; she was a slave to 'The Rose'’s demands; she was obsessed... It’s this last word I find particularly problematic. Even in the catalogue for last year’s comprehensive retrospective at the Whitney Museum, an exhibition that took a wrecking ball to the myths surrounding DeFeo’s career, every single one of the essays uses this word to describe her... Did anyone say Giacometti was obsessive about his gaunt figures? Who would call Johns a servant to his flags? When does interest cross into passion, concept become compulsion, inspiration equal pathology? DeFeo is slowly making her way out of the empty frame “The Rose” left behind, but those charged with unpacking her history need be much more careful not to silhouette her in dramatic light."
"The current retrospective... is not only about The Rose, though it is the heart of the installation... this show provides a broader view of the artist and demonstrates the range of DeFeo’s considerable oeuvre. Her early work, The Rose, and her late work, when seen together, argue persuasively for her inclusion in the Abstract Expressionist canon."
"The exhibition opens abruptly with the revelation that DeFeo was a natural talent from the outset. She worked with inspiration and purpose from the beginning. Her early work, on view in the first gallery, suggests an innate religiosity, a penchant for mixing media, and a Picasso-like facility with forms – natural skills she cultivated throughout her career. A series of early painted cruciforms morph into birds and kites. These 'kites,' are freely painted with a joyful touch, yet they are also un-flyable and foreboding."
"One leaves Jay DeFeo’s retrospective startled at how flawed the first draft of art history can be. It is heartening, however, to know that with this exhibition a great painter will begin to receive the attention she deserves. DeFeo and The Rose live up to the myth."
Yevgeniya Traps reviews the exhibition Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York, on view through June 2, 2013.
Traps writes: "In some ways, [DeFeo's] work echoed the Beats: The Rose, in its making, is one continuous poem, bound up with the artist’s body no less than Ginsberg’s long poem, which takes the writer’s breath as the singular measure of its lines." Traps adds that the "triumphantly speaks to [DeFeo's] prolific imagination, her abundance of technique. The Rose, with its built-in mythology, its gargantuan ambition and stunning payoff, hogs the limelight, but other, smaller works also shine."
James Kalm video blogs a walk-through of the exhibition Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective at the Whitney Museum, New York, on view through June 2, 2013.
Kalm's video provides a unique, virtual close-up look at DeFeo's masterpiece The Rose. As Kalm notes the show "allows viewers the opportunity to see the wider spectrum of works produced by this uniquely dedicated artist that include, drawing, sculpture, photography, collage and jewelry."
Schor writes: "I figure that since the show is divided into two parts, installed along two separate sections of the space, with one side featuring the works of women artists who are deceased, and the other side featuring those of us still among the living, I feel that I can safely recommend the dead without incurring controversy among the other living artists in the show or referring to my own work in it or the ramifications of the word 'lady, ' which I know has stirred some controversy. Curator Jason Andrew of Norte Maar has assembled some terrific work in this show, a diverse group of works by notable artists and artists that some may be less familiar with, and in each case has included a very good example of the artist’s work, and in some cases quite a surprising one. Again, I am just talking about the dead. The works are grouped in open bays or booths, creating in effect small mini-exhibitions with some interesting synergies."
Marks notes: "If you back your way into the Jay DeFeo exhibition... you’ll discover, as I did, a group of five oil paintings in the final gallery. The works are small by today’s standards of monumentality and smaller still by the standards of DeFeo’s most famous work, The Rose... all created in 1989—the year of the last big San Francisco earthquake and the year DeFeo died of lung cancer. The earthquake gave no notice of its imminence, but the intimacy of these paintings, their seeming modesty, might be interpreted to represent DeFeo’s attempt to contain the uncertainty of the time, an attempt to ground herself in an ungrounded world. But for me the paintings demonstrate something very different—something that might be said to characterize all of DeFeo’s work."
Yau writes: "DeFeo was a religious painter in secular clothing that wanted to integrate the sacred and the profane. Her works repeatedly suggest that one never quite escapes dirt and decay. At times, there is something grim and joyless running through her work, which is another reason why it strikes me as more medieval than anything we associate with the Renaissance. Paradoxically, in the drawings there is a lightness of touch that folds another level of feeling into them. DeFeo seems to have lived a messy life on a number of levels, often saving things most of us would throw away — the handle of a broken coffee cup, the discarded orthopedic cast worn by her dog wore when he had a broken leg, and the Christmas trees she kept while living on Fillmore. These things would become inspirations for various artworks. In them one senses DeFeo’s belief in talismans and occult power."
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.