Jay Defeo: A Retrospective

Dana Miller, Editor, Greil Marcus, Contribution by, Michael Duncan, Contribution by, Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Contribution by, Corey Keller, Contribution by
Edited by Dana Miller. Whitney (Yale Univ., dist.), $65 (320p) ISBN 978-0-300-18265-1
Reviewed on: 11/19/2012
Release date: 12/01/2012
DeFeo (1929–1989) is best known for The Rose, a monumental painting created over eight years that required a forklift to move out of her Fillmore Street apartment in San Francisco and was subsequently “lost” for more than 20 years. This book, published in conjunction with exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art, and edited by Whitney curator Miller, confirms that DeFeo’s body of work was full of confidence and experimentation, incorporating an exhaustive working-over of materials: paint, paper, photographs, canvas, and wire. The book argues successfully for DeFeo’s reputation as a photographer with an eye for organic forms. Notable works on paper include a drawing of her tripod (from her Tripod series) that represents her drafting talent despite her claims that she lacked natural ability in drafting. A series of photocopy collages examines her fearlessness in utilizing all media. However, reducing DeFeo’s monumental paintings to book format is problematic. Two photographic studies, 4½×2-7/8 inches in size, seem only slightly smaller than Masquerade in Black, which is 96×96 inches. Nevertheless, the book is a landmark and celebrates a reputational coming-of-age for an important artist. 267 color, 36 b&w illus. (Dec.)
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