Rear Window, 1982; Blue One, 1989
Courtesy of San Francisco Museum of Art
© 2012 The Jay DeFeo Trust / Artists Rights Society

Jay DeFeo’s exhibition at
San Francisco Museum of Art

December 19 2012
2:45 PM

After her inclusion in the landmark 1959 MoMA group exhibition “Sixteen Americans,” Bay Area artist Jay DeFeo seemed to have dropped off the map; she had nary an institutional showing aside from a small posthumous exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 2004. This is all changing, however, with SFMOMA’s sweeping and authoritative survey of her work curated by Dana Miller of the Whitney Museum, which will also return there in February. With close to 130 works, this retrospective will undoubtedly give DeFeo her due as one of the most important West Coast abstract expressionists of her generation. Her oeuvre is by no means exclusive to painting, however. Collages, jewelry sculptures and other works give testament to her particularly bodily and visceral practice, which is perhaps best exemplified — and in some ways revolves around — her most iconic and monumental oil painting The Rose, which she built up, scratched away, and layered exhaustively from 1958—1966. Almost eleven feet high, one foot thick and weighing nearly a ton, it required a crew of movers to cut out her studio windows and lift it with a crane to move the painting. Scaled to DeFeo’s body and featuring a central sculptural starburst motif, The Rose is jaw-dropping to behold yet intensely transcendental. It justifiably made her famous, and considering its heavyweight focus of her retrospective, it will undoubtedly bring her renown all over again. (David Everitt Howe)