Sunday, March 3, 2013

Whitney Museum of Art: Jay DeFeo Retrospective, Etc.

My first studio visit with a visiting artist occurred in graduate school. It was with Richard Misrach and he told me the story of the San Francisco artist Jay DeFeo who worked for years on a painting entitled The Rose. By the time DeFeo was done, it weighed nearly a ton. In order for it to be removed from her studio, the front of the building was cut out and a fork lift took the painting away. Viewing this artwork was on my list of exhibitions to see in NYC over Spring Break.

Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958-1966

It was displayed in a similar light condition DeFeo used when carving the paint - raking at an angle from both sides. [The image above is slightly cropped on top due to the illicit nature in which it was photographed.] The label stated it was "oil with wood and mica on canvas." Questions arose about the support system. How does a ton of paint remain upright? What is conservation like on a work this thick? How many tubes of paint did it possibly take to construct this?

Jay DeFeo working on The Rose image via

The rest of the exhibition exceeded all expectations. The small drawings of tripods and plows, in some cases displayed on notebook paper with the ring still in tact, were mesmerizing. In the drawing below, the 9H pencil scratched the surface of the paper and that texture became part of the work.

Jay DeFeo, Plow, 1979

Other works that drew my attention: Pink Cup By Night from 1989 and the small paintings of a bird that died before DeFeo reached the veterinary clinic. Needless to say, I immediately placed the retrospective catalog in my Amazon shopping cart when I returned to the hotel room.

Robert Heinecken, Magazine Interventions in the exhibition Sinister Pop = Best artwork viewed that I had never seen before but have managed to show images of to all three of the classes I am teaching this semester.

Lorna Simpson, Please Remind Me of Who I Am, 2009 in Blues for Smoke = Best photographic presentation

Here is a full scale photograph of how the work was installed at the Brooklyn Museum. It contains 50 photographs and drawings displayed in bronze frames. I have many ideas for presentation after seeing this exhibition!

Joel Meyerowitz, Times Square New York, 1962 from Sinister Pop = Best photograph from an artist primarily known for his color photography.

Zoe Leonard, Blue Suitcases, (1961) in Blues for Smoke = Best sculpture presentation and incorporation of the color blue.

So far, the exhibitions at the Whitney are the highlight of all museum art experiences this very brief trip to NYC.

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