October 27, 2021

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Jay DeFeo and Bruce Conner Have been BFF’s (Bohemian Mates Without end)

Jay DeFeo and Bruce Conner Were BFF’s (Bohemian Friends Forever)

The shut friendship between Jay DeFeo and Bruce Conner, main figures on the San Francisco artwork scene, is the stuff of bohemian legend. They spoke to one another so usually that DeFeo nicknamed Conner “Phone,” and their lengthy, meandering conversations spilled over into their work. A charming two-person present on the Paula Cooper Gallery, “We Are Not What We Seem,” is the primary to contemplate their constructive and touching affect on one another.

DeFeo, who died in 1989, at age 60, is understood for a single work, her astounding “Rose,” a monumental accretion of oil paint that consumed her for greater than seven years. Working in her house on Fillmore Road, she utilized pigment in gloppy impastos, then chiseled into the paint. What lastly emerged was an 11-foot-tall, ash-gray slab incised with a central starburst radiating white traces. The piece (which, by a contented coincidence, is now on view within the permanent-collection galleries of the Whitney Museum of American Artwork) has a visionary vitality and may put you in thoughts of William Blake’s blazing Nineteenth-century suns.

In 1965, unable to afford a lease improve, DeFeo obtained an eviction discover. She apprehensive that “The Rose” was unmovable. By then it weighed greater than a ton and was too cumbersome to suit by way of the entrance door. Alternate plans have been devised. We all know all this as a result of Conner, who is usually described as the daddy of music movies, made a much-loved quick movie, “THE WHITE ROSE,” that paperwork the drama of transferring day and comes with a Miles Davis rating. You’ll want to watch all seven minutes of it within the present present. It’s a captivating historic doc: A number of Bekins transferring males in white jumpsuits pry “The Rose” from the wall and maneuver it out a bay window with a forklift as DeFeo sits disconsolately on a hearth escape, smoking. “It was the top of ‘The Rose,’ and it was the top of Jay,” Conner mentioned later in an interview.

Not fairly. She ceased working for a number of years, however thankfully rebounded within the ’70s, when she produced an impressed if lesser-known physique of images, collages and drawings in addition to grainy, Xerox-style copies of them. And it’s the ’70s, moderately than the much-mythologized Beat ’60s, that dominate this present. In step with their avant-garde origins, each DeFeo and Conner favored humble, papery, typically fragile mediums devoid of the big-game standing of portray. Conner betrays his debt to European Surrealism in his many collages assembled from fastidiously snipped engravings in addition to in a collection of amusing images during which an enormous horror-movie eyeball fills the whole thing of a tv display.

DeFeo, in contrast, is the extra delicate and form-conscious artist. An untitled {photograph}, barely 5 inches sq., is ready inside her studio, a chaste refuge whose desk holds a single, barely shaggy rose in a transparent glass vase. The sting of a handbook typewriter is seen on the left and one among Conner’s black-inked lithographs — “#121 TWELVE MOONS” (1970-1) — hangs on the best. (He all the time insisted that the titles of his work be uppercase, like E.E. Cummings in reverse.) The room is mesmerizing in its quietude.

In a collection of meticulous photo-collages that really feel like a non-public joke, DeFeo tinkers with Conner’s work. Borrowing a full-length silhouette of his physique from a gallery announcement for his 1975 present of photograms, “Angels,” she slyly reworked his outlines right into a body or container for her cut-up images. Her additions — a sharp mild bulb, an element from a vacuum cleaner that echoes the form of his torso — appear to say that even angels want functioning gear.

In the long run, the work of the 2 artists was extra completely different than alike. DeFeo, although usually categorized as a California Surrealist, had none of that motion’s need to shock. She will pretty be considered as a forerunner of the Footage Era, the group of largely feminine artists who would shift images from the action-packed realm of the road into the extra meditative indoors. You may see why Conner regarded to her as a muse. Whether or not in her monumental “Rose” or in her miniaturist images, she persistently means that her studio was not only a office however a temple for a congregation of 1.

Bruce Conner & Jay DeFeo: We Are Not What We Appear

By way of Oct. 23, Paula Cooper Gallery, 524 West twenty sixth Road, Chelsea, (212) 255-1105; paulacoopergallery.com.

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