Critics’ Picks

Jay DeFeo, Untitled (Compass series), 1979, charcoal and chalk on paper, 14 x 11".


Jay DeFeo

galerie frank elbaz | Dallas
136 Glass Street Suite 120
April 5–July 14

Jay DeFeo’s legacy is usually seen through the lens of her exalted sculptural painting The Rose, 1958–66; it looms over her other artistic efforts. Despite the intense focus that canvas deserves, this handsome gathering of DeFeo’s works on paper encourages a wider contemplation. These forty small drawings and photocopies depicting studio tools—chosen by Paul Galvez—have a journalistic directness that feels surprisingly enigmatic.

DeFeo’s portrait-like renderings of tripods and compasses appear simple, yet the loosely drawn images have a latent anthropomorphism––spherical bumps become ankles, nipples, and limbs. Her careful shading often combines with a quick gestural vitality, situating the drawings in an odd space between the animate and the dead. The ostensible key to understanding this show is found in the pairing of the compositions Untitled (Compass series) with Untitled, both 1979, the latter a photocopy of the first drawing with a compass floating above the original form. These companion images intimate that DeFeo’s larger drawing project is meant to both render objects as portraits and embody the notion of measurement as a flawed but necessary method of seeing and knowing our world. Most of these drawings are fragments of a whole, bringing to mind remnant objects from antiquity. In this regard, DeFeo also adopts a literal approach by portraying portions of bones, pulling all of her different drawings into an equal discussion about form and function. She seems deeply curious about the unity and utility bound within our bodies, and how that is necessarily present in the fictive space of all depictive art.