Jay DeFeo was driven by an unrelenting fascination with her surroundings and a restless drive to experiment with artistic tools and materials. From her first mature works produced in the early 1950s through the late 1980s, DeFeo fiercely resisted categorization and a signature style by producing a pointedly unchronological oeuvre. Working across discernible themes in a cyclical manner, the artist would often return to an earlier body of work after an extended period, incorporating earlier ideas into new pieces through the re-imaging and recycling of forms.
Best known as a painter, most especially for The Rose (1958–65), her monumental marriage of painting and sculpture, DeFeo was a highly skilled draftswoman, an exceptional photographer, and visionary in her use of collage and photocopy. Related motifs appear across media and many of DeFeo’s individual works are cross-disciplinary, with drawings containing sections of gestural paint, objects embedded in paintings, and photocopies of collages blooming into new mediations on familiar ideas. Through an anti-hierarchical approach to unique versus selfappropriated images, and gelatin silver prints in relation to photocopies, DeFeo encouraged an unorthodox and egalitarian approach to the art object.
At The Art Show, the gallery will stage a presentation of works by DeFeo from 1982–83, as well as a related work from 1952. Five small oil paintings on paper from DeFeo’s Summer Landscape series demonstrate an unusually bold use of color. Executed in the year DeFeo returned to oil paint after a decade of working exclusively in acrylic, these works reveal the artist’s renewed fascination with the medium through layers of gestural brushstrokes that emit a soft glow. DeFeo’s self-professed fervor for dividing spaces within the picture plane is equally apparent in two works from the Summer Image series, produced the following summer and dedicated to her mother, who died the same year. Using tape to create literal barriers on the paper’s surface, DeFeo allowed the lines to guide strokes of acrylic, enamel, and charcoal into amorphous forms with sharp edges.
Complementing both the Summer Landscape and Summer Image works is a single tempera painting from 1952, the pivotal year that DeFeo lived and worked in Florence. The artist found herself deeply moved by the ancient city, particularly “the gorgeous surfaces and textures of crumbling walls,” and the proliferating Abstract Expressionist style.  In the few surviving paintings from this period the origins of DeFeo’s visual vocabulary––notably the cross, triangle, circle, and spiral––are clearly discernable, along with the rich color that would resurface in earnest thirty years later in the Summer Landscapes.
1. Jay DeFeo, Biography of J. DeFeo, 1975. Archive of The Jay DeFeo Foundation, Berkeley, CA (JDF no. Doc0028).