Chameleon artist DeFeo finally honored

Courtesy PhotoDeFeo worked on the 1

Courtesy PhotoDeFeo worked on the 1

The late Bay Area artist Jay DeFeo is best known for a painting that took nearly eight years to finish. Now her admirers have a chance to see works from the rest of her  career, thanks to a superb exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

“Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective” is on view through Feb. 3. Organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the exhibition brings together more than 130 paintings, photographs and other work.

#link_box { width: 150px; height: auto; margin: 0; padding: 0; margin: 10px 20px 10px 0px; padding: 10px; background-color: #fbfade; /* ecru – light yellow */ border: 1px solid #343a25; /* green – for summer arts */ float: left; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; } #link_box img, #link_box a { border 0px; border-style: none; outline: none; } #link_box h1 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #8A0808; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 12px; text-align: center; } #link_box h2 { margin: 0; padding: 5px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; text-transform: none; color: #000; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-weight: bold; font-size: 10px; text-align: center; } #link_box ul { list-style: none; margin: 0; padding: 0; border: none; } #link_box li { margin: 0px padding: 0px; border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; } #link_box li a { display: block; padding: 5px 5px 5px 15px; /* Padding for bullet */ /* border-bottom: 1px solid #ddd; border-bottom-width: 1px; */ color: #000; width: 100%; width: auto; /* height: auto; */ /* border: 1px solid blue; */ margin: 0px; font-family: arial, sans serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: 14px; text-decoration: none; } #link_box li a: before { /* background-position: top left; */ } #link_box li a:hover { background-color: #ddd; color: #000; }

“DeFeo is well known for her magnum opus, ‘The Rose,’ but her full and complex oeuvre has not yet been given the serious consideration that it merits,” says Corey Keller, curator of photography as SFMOMA. “This exhibition will be a revelation.”

DeFeo worked on “The Rose” almost exclusively from 1958 to 1966. Using a trowel or palette knife, she built up layers of paint and then chiseled parts away. It is a massive piece that stands nearly 11 feet high and weighs more than 1,500 pounds. The museum has done it justice, displaying it alone in an alcove.

What is most impressive about the exhibition is the range of work. DeFeo’s jewelry designs feel as contemporary as if they were done yesterday. Along with large oil paintings like “The Jewel,” there are smaller tempera paintings, done in Florence, and sculptures called “unflyable kites.”

In the 1970s, DeFeo often drew ordinary objects such as a camera tripod or swimming goggles, transforming them into works of depth and beauty. She also turned to photography, taking pictures of a dental bridge she wore due to gum disease.

Her paintings “Crescent Bridge – and “Crescent Bridge II” – were also based on the object, made from her own teeth and some false ones. With her skillful brush, the teeth become massive forms that bring to mind rocks at the edge of a tide.

DeFeo’s Bay Area roots ran deep. She went to high school in San Jose and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. The apartment she shared on Fillmore Street in San Francisco with her then husband, artist Wally Hendrick, became a center for weekend artists’ parties in the late 1950s. During the 1970s she lived in Larkspur; by the 1980s she was living in Oakland and teaching at Mills College.

The last gallery features works done by DeFeo as she struggled with lung cancer. “Dove One” and “Last Valentine” are especially poignant.

DeFeo died in 1989 at the age of 60.

Art & MuseumsartsentertainmentmomaSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Construction in the Better Market Street Project between Fifth and Eighth streets is expected to break ground in mid-2021.<ins></ins>
SFMTA board to vote on Better Market Street changes

Agency seeks to make up for slimmed-down plan with traffic safety improvements

Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Currey (30) tallied 26 points and seven assists at Monday night’s game against the Lakers. (Chris Victorio for the S.F. Examiner).
Warriors overcome 19-point deficit to stun defending-champion Lakers 115-113

Ladies and gentlemen, the Golden State Warriors are officially back. Stephen Curry… Continue reading

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris speaks during an event to name President-elect Joe Biden’s economic team at the Queen Theater on Dec. 1, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)
Kamala Harris to resign from Senate

Bridget Bowman CQ-Roll Call Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will resign from the… Continue reading

A view of Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
CCSF begins search for next chancellor amid new challenges

‘It’s arguably the biggest single responsibility the board has,’ trustee says

Some people are concerned that University of California, San Francisco’s expansion at its Parnassus campus could cause an undesirable increase in the number of riders on Muni’s N-Judah line.<ins></ins>
Will UCSF’s $20 million pledge to SFMTA offset traffic woes?

An even more crowded N-Judah plus increased congestion ahead cause concern

Most Read