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 Jay DeFeo  (1929 - 1989)

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Lived/Active: California      Known for: large-scale abstraction, photocollage

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Ad Code: 3
Jay DeFeo
from Auction House Records.
TEMPLE (FOR W.B.)
© 2001 Estate of Jay DeFeo / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
From her studio on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, she created large-size abstract oil paintings whose surfaces are loaded with piled, grooved, colorful paint. She attracted much attention as a West Coast avant-garde artist, and the three-story building where she and her artist husband, Wally Hedrick, lived and worked was in the 1950s and 60s the unofficial headquarters of what-was-then, the San Francisco art world.

In the late summer of 1959, at age thirty, she had her first major solo show, and it was held at the Dilexi Gallery on Union Street. From this exhibit, five pieces were chosen for the "Sixteen Americans" exhibit at the Whitney Museum in New York. This brought her widespread attention including some prestigious collectors. In January, 1961, she was also featured in the "New Talent, USA" section of "Art in America."

From then on, she was a legendary figure in art circles in California, but beyond there her reputation did not take off, and from 1963 to 1971, she did no exhibiting and from 1966 to 1970, no painting. In the early '60s, she created a large picture titled "The Rose," which was cementlike with eight inches of paint and weight of 2300 pounds. Breaking apart, it was unwieldy but was exhibited in 1969 at the San Francisco Museum of Art where it continually shed debris.

From that time, she worked that painting obsessively by carving, adding paint, and hacking away at what she was calling a marriage of painting and sculpture. It was a process that seemed to drive her crazy and certainly to dissipation. She was consuming about a quart of brandy a day as well as chain smoking, and in 1989, she died of lung cancer.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:

The following was written and submitted  by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from  Laguna Woods, California:

Jay DeFeo was born in 1929.  From her studio on Fillmore Street in San Francisco, she attracted much attention as a West Coast avant-garde artist.  The three-story building where she and her artist husband, Wally Hedrick, lived and worked was in the 1950s and 1960s the unofficial headquarters of what was then the San Francisco art world.   


De Feo puts a delicate spin on Surrealism in her drawings and photo-collages from the 1970s. Her fine drawings depict partial views of tripods, swim goggles, tape-dispensers and other gracefully curved forms that seem simultaneously organic and mechanical.  The objects fade near the edge of the paper, suggesting that these anthropomorphic forms belong not to the world of concrete substances, but to an intangible realm of fragile, crystalling memories.  DeFeo's collages also eschew real-world specificity in favor of dreamy associations. The flight dramas of her often abstract pictures evoke moods, textures and drifting reveries.   

Sources include: Miriam Seidel in Art in America, January 1997   


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