This retrospective is the definitive exhibition to date of the work of Jay DeFeo (1929–89). At the outset of her career in the 1950s, DeFeo was at the center of a vibrant community of Beat artists, poets, and musicians in San Francisco. Although she is best known for her monumental painting The Rose (1958–66, now in the Whitney’s collection), which she spent eight years making and which later languished hidden behind a wall for two decades, DeFeo created an astoundingly diverse range of works spanning four decades.
Her unconventional approach to materials and intensive, physical process make DeFeo a unique figure in postwar American art who defies easy categorization. The full breadth of her work will be presented for the first time in this exhibition of more than 130 objects. This astonishing array of collages, drawings, paintings, photographs, small sculptures, and jewelry will illuminate DeFeo’s courageous experimentation and extraordinary vision.
Estimated to weigh nearly one ton, The Rose (1958–66) by Jay DeFeo is one of the most complicated works in the Whitney’s permanent collection to install. On February 15, 2013, the work was installed at the Whitney Museum as part of the exhibition Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective (February 28–June 2, 2013). The work arrived in New York from California, where the Whitney’s exhibition had finished a successful run at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Paula Court documented the installation that day from start to finish.
The Whitney Museum of American Art was borne out of sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s advocacy on behalf of living American artists. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists with new ideas found it nearly impossible to exhibit or sell their work in the United States. Recognizing the obstacles these artists faced, Mrs. Whitney began purchasing and showing their work, thereby becoming the leading patron of American art from 1907 until her death in 1942.
The Whitney was the first museum to take its exhibitions and programming beyond its own walls by establishing corporate-funded branch museums in other parts of New York City and the surrounding area. The Whitney branches were located in downtown Manhattan; at the Equitable Center at Seventh Avenue and 52nd Street; at Champion International Corporation in Stamford, Connecticut; and at the corporate headquarters of Altria (originally the Philip Morris Companies) on Park Avenue and 42nd Street.
Jay Defeo: A Retrospective
February 28–June 2, 2013
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
New York, NY 10021