current favorite: jay defeo

I shouldn’t say that the work of Jay DeFeo is my “current” favorite; her work is now amongst my forever favorites. Admittedly, I did not know anything about DeFeo or her work before seeing the show.

Last week George and I went to The Whitney to see this show specifically as it was an assignment he was given through class. Due to some rather noisy museum guests and one very terrible tour guide that kept referring to the artist as “he” we decided to go through the show backwards (in reverse chronological order). While you could clearly see some progressions through her work it was fun to go backwards. I’ve rarely walked through a show where I wanted to read every tid bit about each era or work and often times I would quickly skim through but I could’ve honestly walked through this show twice and re-read each one.

Jay DeFeo is most famously known for her painting The Rose, which took her 8 years to complete. EIGHT YEARS. The image below simply does it no justice whatsoever. If I remember correctly it is almost 11 inches thick. In other words, the depth and texture simply can only be understood and appreciated in person. Just looking through these images of the installation will give you an idea of the size.

Image via The Whitney Museum of American Art

I would say this about almost all of her work – that photographs do the work no justice (this goes for many other artists too of course) . Before we left The Whitney I briefly looked through the large book of her work and many of the photos don’t allow you to understand the texture in each piece – some have very thick layers of textured paint, pieces of tape, or collaged pieces of photographs. These are often times the best moments of the paintings and prints.

There are so many great things to say I could go on forever really but if you’re in New York you should see it for yourself. I remember saying to George after the show something like, “I most loved how she used common objects as her point of reference, it’s brilliant, and you could tell she was a total nut.” Both things are true and almost a week later her work is still buzzing in my brain.

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