White Shadow, 1972

Hong Kong 2015
Mitchell-Innes & Nash
Acrylic on Masonite
Jay DeFeo White Shadow, 1972 Acrylic on Masonite 48 x 37 1/8 inches  121.9 x 94.3 cm Associated with the Beat Generation and based out of San Francisco, Jay DeFeo, was one of the foremost woman artist of her era.  Born in 1929, DeFeo based her work out of Abstract Expressionism, geometric Italian architecture and influenced by Asian, African and prehistoric art.  She has displayed works alongside those of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Louise Nevelson at the Sixteen Americans exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1959 and has been collected extensively by the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago along with countless others.    During the late-1960s, Jay DeFeo weathered a series of personal and professional challenges.  Recently separated from her husband Wally Hedrick as well as the removal of The Rose, a project that had preoccupied her for over a decade, DeFeo found herself on her own for the first time since the mid-1950s, without work and in fragile health.   The start of the 1970s marked a profound transition in both DeFeo’s practice and medium.  It was at this time that she began to work with acrylic, due to both her lack of ample studio space as well as the belief that the lead content of her oil paints had contributed to the gum disease she had suffered a few years prior.    Her shift to acrylic, which relied more heavily on illusionistic rendering rather than the textural weight of oil, catalyzed DeFeo’s interest to pull symbolic imagery from her immediate surroundings.  This shift in medium coincided with her interest in photography as an artistic outlet, which she also began using to document and draft her canvases.    One such object, lovingly photographed and mined for motif, was the artist’s dental bridge she had used during her illness.  More totemic than dejected, this vestige served as the model for the first substantial paintings DeFeo produced following The Rose, entitled Crescent Bridge I and Crescent Bridge II (1971-1972).    DeFeo would push this motif even further by a layering and breaking apart of its components.  It is the latter that informs White Shadow, which appears not only as an inverted fragment of the compositions of two Crescent Bridge paintings, but also echoes the vacant space of DeFeo’s The Eyes: a simultaneous regard for the past with prescience for the future.