Weighing nearly one ton, The Rose by Jay DeFeo is one of the most complicated works in the Whitney’s collection to install. On February 15, the work was installed at the Whitney Museum as part of the exhibition Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective (opening February 28). The work arrived in New York from California, where the Whitney’s exhibition had finished a successful run at SFMOMA. Photographer Paula Court documented the installation that day from start to finish.
America Is Hard to See features more than 600 works by some 400 artists. On the Museum’s sixth floor, view art from 1950 to 1975 including works by Jay DeFeo, Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha, and Andy Warhol.
For the next eight years, The Rose took over her life, as she painted and repainted it.
“It’s going through a whole cycle of art history, the primitive, the archaic, the classic, and then on to the baroque but still not the final version. I just want to create a work that is just so precariously balanced between going this way or that way that it maintains itself,” she said.
To keep herself going, Jay drank a quart of Christian Brothers brandy a day and smoked two to three packs of Gauloises. At some point, she began adding metallic powders into the mix for sparkle, and inserted copper wire, beads, and pearls. By 1965, she had paid a total of $5,375.51 for painting materials. Today it resides in the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Despite all those Gauloises, it was the painting that was the death of her. Constantly licking her brush to get a point, Jay ingested huge amounts of lead from the white paint, and died of cancer in 1989. Ironically, Jay’s first title for her painting has been Deathrose.
Rather than comb our collections for images of flags/parades/hot dogs/fireworks for today’s post, we thought we’d go with what we do best and share a sampling of artists who made their mark on the American canon. All of these portraits are by Mimi Jacobs.