alter ego: Latin, “the other I.” The sub-conscious. In literary analysis, used to describe characters that are psychologically similar, or a fictional character that stands in or speaks for the author.


An exhibition of 55 paintings, photographs, collages and drawings – 46 of which have never been exhibited before – traces relationships between pairs or groups of works, examining ideas of the döppleganger and yin yang in Jay DeFeo’s oeuvre.

DeFeo’s artworks were modeled on objects from her daily life, which she re-imagined in an astonishing range of media and techniques. An object that inspired her might be drawn over and over from different angles or in new mediums, photographed repeatedly with each print manipulated differently in the darkroom, described in ink then oil, then graphite, then gouache. DeFeo might Xerox a drawing she particularly liked, arranging it on the bed of the photocopy machine with other images or objects to create works akin to photograms. She’d cannibalize her own works – fragmenting them, collaging with them or re-photographing them. Each iteration is a playful investigation of formal motifs and the sensuality of art-making materials.


JAY DEFEO / ALTER EGO includes groups of works from various series that exhibit her penchant for creating related works – twins, if you will. Some döpplegangers come from within the same series, others are from different periods or are made in radically different ways. Discrete works or diptychs mirror one another. Apparent opposites are complimentary. This exhibition focuses on the dialogue between works – and uses their similarities and differences to illuminate DeFeo’s methodology and efforts to transcend the ordinary in search of the mystical.


In 2012/13, the work of Jay DeFeo (1929 – 1989) was the subject of a retrospective exhibition organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art that was also presented at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. DeFeo’s works are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, Centre Pompidou, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Menil Collection and many others.


An exhibition catalogue with essays by Todd Hosfelt (https://toddhosfelt.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/were-installing-an-exhibition-called-jay-defeo-alter-ego/) and Veronica Roberts, Curator of Modern & Contemporary Art at the Blanton Museum of Art, will be available. Hosfelt and Roberts will participate in a panel discussion along with Julian Cox, Founding Curator of Photography and Chief Curator of the de Young Museum, on Saturday, 26 September. All images copyright 2015 The Jay DeFeo Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

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