Jay DeFeo,

Jay DeFeo, “Untitled (White Spica),” 1973
Gelatin silver print 8 3/4 x 7 3/8 in. (22.2 x 18.7 cm.)
©The Jay DeFeo Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY.

By now, you have likely read about — and, we hope, seen — the probing and complete survey of Jay DeFeo‘s (1929-89) later works at Mitchell-Innes & Nash (through 6/7). Fifty paintings, drawings, photographs, photocopies and collages, many pulled from the DeFeo Trust’s archive and rarely or not-yet publicly seen, push well-past the mythology of The Rose and take us to a place just beyond where the 2012 and 2013 retrospectives at SFMoMA and the Whitney left off.

The exhibition is a stunner, mostly because it’s DeFeo’s unremitting investigatory impulse and deft handling of (sometimes-) antagonistic media — rather than the handful of forms and objects that became both cast and crew in her work — that’s really the subject here. Have a look at Untitled (White Spica) (1973) — the sense of surface achieved in that print — and it’s hard to say if any artist since DeFeo has truly been able to bridge the conceptual divide that separates painting from photography — especially today. And while plenty of attention is given to DeFeo’s near sanctification of her subjects, and how she was able to transcend their physical reality and push them to a more liminal place, we wanted to know more about the material practices that were so directly at the heart of her search.

DeFeo_Lotus Eater 1 400w
Jay DeFeo, “Lotus Eater No. 1”, 1974
Acrylic with collage on Masonite, 72.5 x 48.5 in. (184.2 x 123.2 cm.)
©The Jay DeFeo Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Courtesy of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, NY.

We walked through the gallery with Lucy Mitchell-Innes last Tuesday to learn more about DeFeo’s experimentation and chance trials, and about how the exhibition came to be.


Jay DeFeo: Lucy Mitchell-Innes in Conversation

Jay DeFeo LMI in Conv Cover
Click above for full-screen HD version. Or view on Youtube here.

Editor’s Recs:

“’Lotus Eater No. 1’… is characteristic DeFeo — monumental yet fiercely compact, with gestures hemmed into a slick form. The enigmatic shape at the center has the form and violence of a bullet. The acrylic is thin but complex, and gains literal depth by way of collage and an embedded staple, leftover from her masking process.” Read Sarah Cowan’s probing review on Hyperallergic. (5/29/14)

“DeFeo…often sav[ed] 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.” Read John Yau on the Whitney’s 2013 DeFeo retrospective (Hyperallergic. 1/6/13)

Search Brett Baker’s Painters’ Table for reviews and analysis of the 2013 and 2014 retrospectives, and other recent DeFeo exhibitions.

Listen to the Whitney’s backstory on “Tuxedo Junction.”

Visit The Jay DeFeo Trust website.

Subscribe to Tilted Arc
If you like this story, please consider subscribing. We are sticklers for privacy.
We will never sell or share your e-mail address.

Follow us:

Recent Posts:

© Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.