SFMoMA Debuts First Major Retrospective of Jay Defeo

by Daniel Haim

USA. California. San Francisco. 1960 Painter Jay Defeo Painting ” The Rose”

From November 3, 2012 through February 3, 2013, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) will present Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective, the most comprehensive exhibition to date of the Bay Area artist Jay DeFeo (1929–1989). Although best known for her landmark painting The Rose (1958–66)—a near two-thousand-pound masterpiece—DeFeo created an astoundingly diverse range of work. Organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the retrospective places The Rose in the context of her larger body of work, tracing DeFeo’s visual concerns and motifs across more than four decades of art making. Following its premiere at SFMOMA, the exhibition will be shown at the Whitney from February 28 through June 2, 2013.

Comprising more than 130 works, Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective brings together the artist’s paintings, drawings, photographs, collages, small sculptures, and jewelry designs—most of which have not been seen in decades or have never been exhibited before. The exhibition is curated by Dana Miller, curator of the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum. The San Francisco presentation is overseen by Corey Keller, associate curator of photography at SFMOMA.

“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. This exhibition will be a revelation. A nationally recognized artist, she was also a major figure in the Bay Area art community, and beloved by many here. It is an honor to present her work at SFMOMA,” says Keller.

“DeFeo believed that, more than most other artists, her art was best understood when considered comprehensively. In presenting the entire career, this retrospective will demonstrate the captivating sweep of DeFeo’s heterogeneous work and illuminate her groundbreaking experimentation and extraordinary vision,” explains Miller.

The retrospective draws from more than 35 private and public collections, including those of the Whitney and SFMOMA, as well as the Jay DeFeo Trust, which provided unprecedented access to works and archives for the exhibition.

The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated 320 page catalogue with new scholarship on all aspects of DeFeo’s work and career, including essays by Dana Miller; Corey Keller; Michael Duncan, independent scholar; Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, associate director of conservation and research, Whitney Museum; and Greil Marcus, independent scholar. The most accurate biographical chronology of DeFeo to date will round out this volume.