NARRATOR: Welcome to this exhibition, Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective. DeFeo was an artist who painted, drew, took photographs, and experimented with her own imaginative combinations of media. She lived and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for her entire career. As a young woman, she was at the center of the action in Beat San Francisco. The Beat movement was largely literary, with poets like Allen Ginsberg and Laurence Ferlinghetti and novelist Jack Kerouac at the fore—and there was no one “Beat” style, especially in the visual arts. But DeFeo shared her peers’ exploratory spirit and a desire to push her art as far as it would go. For DeFeo, that spirit long outlasted the Beat moment.
This is the first retrospective to take a comprehensive look at DeFeo’s career. She’s been best known for one monumental painting, The Rose, that she worked on for almost eight years. Through the late 1970s and 1980s the painting was a kind of Bay Area legend—something rumored to be fantastic but never seen, hidden from sight behind a wall in a conference room in the San Francisco Art Institute. Until the work was conserved and then acquired and exhibited by the Whitney Museum in the mid-1990s, the myth of The Rose tended to overshadow all else. This exhibition aims to give the big picture of DeFeo’s career.
On this tour, you’ll hear from curators, personal friends of the artist, and archival recordings of DeFeo herself.