New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Jay DeFeo
Photographs/Works on Paper
R. Wayne Parsons

Jay DeFeo is best known for her large, heavily-impastoed oil painting “The Rose”, in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of Art. But she was also a prolific and tireless experimenter in other media, including drawing, sculpture and photography. A small collection of works on paper is on view at Nicole Klagsbrun.

Of the dozen or so works exhibited, about half are photographs, all black and white, all small (think postcards, not billboards). The earliest photos in the group date from 1972 and are reasonably conventional in subject matter; there is a very nice still life of cauliflower florets and salad greens on a silver tray, though the low-key tones of the image transform the mundane subject matter into something of a mystery and the strong composition strengthens the effect.

But her forte in photography was abstraction, though not an abstraction of straight lines, regular curves and nicely defined forms. These abstractions, constructed from what appear to be bits of detritus, convey a sense of chaos, of things falling apart, of the world not quite the way we would like it to be. I am reminded of the later work of Carl Chiarenza or, in a more literal sense, of the cigarette butts of Irving Penn.

The non-photographic works in the exhibition employ such media as ink, graphite, and masking tape and are consistent in their approach and effects; one of the more compelling images is actually a photocopy of what appear to be pieces of paper; if we define photography as “drawing with light”, this work passes the test as surely as those made with more conventional cameras.

If there is a problem with this exhibition it is that it is so small. Perhaps its main purpose it to whet our appetites for a retrospective of Ms. DeFeo’s work scheduled for 2012 at the Whitney. I’ll be there!

Jay DeFeo
Photographs/Works on Paper

Nicole Klagsbrun
526 W 26th St. 2nd Fl
Chelsea         Map

212 243 3335

Sunday, January 17 to
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Hours: Tues-Fri, 10-6