13 October - 8 December 2012


Coinciding with the sweeping retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, this exhibition aims to illuminate a new understanding of Jay DeFeo's oeuvre through a focused examination of her exploration of the relationship between the mechanical, the animal and the transcendent. Twenty-five works from the 1970s - paintings on paper, drawings, collages and various photo-based works, most never before exhibited - illustrate DeFeo's musings on anthropomorphism, creation, and metaphysics. The works assembled in this exhibition provide new insight into DeFeo's exploitation of the machine - an icon of twentieth-century Western culture - to explore the fundamental nature of being. Throughout a career spanning nearly 40 years, Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) scrutinized objects from her daily life, then re-imagined them, often over and over again, in an effort to conceive new possibilities of seeing and achieve new depths of cognition. In a process akin to a metaphysical quest to grasp the nature of the universe, DeFeo frequently and repeatedly turned to various apparatuses for inspiration: a candlestick telephone, draftsman's compass, photographer's tripod, a scotch tape dispenser, a Eureka vacuum cleaner. She photographed, painted and drew them. She obliterated, cut up and cannibalized her representations. She abstracted them. She anthropomorphized them. She riffed on them. She teased historical and formal references from them. She animated them through an evolutionary methodology. Ultimately, she gave them life. A major traveling retrospective of Jay DeFeo's work, organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, will open at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on November 3, 2012, and at the Whitney Museum in February 2013. Jay DeFeo's works are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, Centre Pompidou, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Menil Collection and many others.

Untitled (Jewelry Series), 1976