Jay DeFeo (1929-1989)
Untitled (Rear Window Series)
Jay DeFeo came to the fore as part of a vibrant community of avant-garde artists, poets, filmmakers, and musicians in 1950s San Francisco. Her unconventional approach to materials and her intensive, physical method make her a unique figure in postwar American art. Although much has been written about her monumental painting The Rose (1958–66), the astoundingly diverse and compelling body of work she made over the course of four decades has recently received widespread acclaim—garnering her a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Since her death, DeFeo’s work has been featured in numerous museum and gallery exhibitions, and a body of serious scholarship considering her significance in twentieth-century art continues to grow.
Born in 1929 in Hanover, New Hampshire, DeFeo grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1950 and a master’s in 1951, both in Studio Art, from the University of California, Berkeley. DeFeo was a pivotal figure in the San Francisco Renaissance, a community of artists, poets, and jazz musicians who would come to influence the Beat Movement and the Bay Area poetry scene. The art she began making in the mid-1950s incorporated the dualities of representation and abstraction, organic rhythms and geometric form, refinement and expressionism. In 1959 DeFeo’s art, along with that of Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson, and others, was included in Dorothy Miller’s momentous exhibition Sixteen Americans at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.