Posts Tagged ‘Jay DeFeo’

Blackpaint 316 – Rudders and Shark’s Fins at the Serpentine

December 31, 2011

Helen Frankenthaler

The news of the death of the great Helen Frankenthaler – great painter, beautiful woman ( judging by the Guardian photograph) made me realise how easy it is to overlook people if they haven’t had a retrospective or show recently.  I think I’ve only seen two or three of her works together as part of a package at the Guggenheim, Bilbao maybe 7 or 8 years ago.  Then, a few paintings in Ab-Ex books and art histories (Autumn Farm, Spring Blizzard, the much later and fantastic Lavender Mirror) but no easy- to- find book to herself.  But she was a pioneer; the pouring of thinned paint onto unprimed canvas, leaving tracts unstained, was her “invention”, later adopted by Morris Louis, notably.

Joan Mitchell has had a bit of well-deserved attention lately, with a lovely book and a small exhibition in Edinburgh; now we should see the same for Frankenthaler… and Krasner, Hartigan, Jay DeFeo….

Lygia Pape

“Magnetized Space” at the Serpentine Gallery, free. lovely exhibition.  She was a Brazilian artist who died, aged 77, in 2003 – a Neo-Concretist (no, I didn’t know either).  The Neo – Concretist movement was “dedicated to the inclusion of art into everyday life”, so the booklet says.  Anyway, there are several videos on show that we didn’t have time to watch, beautiful, careful drawings of close parallel lines on white paper, with sections tilted to look as if collaged on – very similar to Rachel Whiteread’s stuff at Tate Britain, I thought – but the most beautiful woodcuts on paper; minimalist, geometrical shapes cleanly cut against each other, both black and white and in three or four colours.  There are three in particular, in which the grain of the wood has been imprinted onto Japanese paper.  One resembles the rudder of a boat, another a shark’s fin, the third an abstract swirling pattern.  They are great, don’t miss them.

The Roberts

Colquhoun and MacBryde, about whom Roger Bristow has written a book entitled “The Last Bohemians” (2010).  I knew of them vaguely from the writings of Julian Maclaren-Ross and Daniel Farson but I’d only scene one picture by Colquhoun, the one that Grayson Perry included in his Hastings exhibition a while back.  the first illustration on the book is “Bitch and Pup”, which Colquhoun did in 1958; it’s very striking and no doubt I’ll be returning to them, as I read more.

The Artist

I’ll have to see it, the critics having unanimously praised it – but it all sounds a bit “Cinema Paradiso” to me.  That’s enough, signing off to get drunk (er).  Happy New Year, to those of you for whom it is.



Blackpaint 226

December 3, 2010

Jay Defeo

I came across her story in “The Beats; A Graphic History”,  ed. by Paul Buhle (Souvenir Press, 2009).  She was a San Francisco abstract artist, sort of AbEx, who spent eight years working on one painting, “The Rose” (presumably doing others at the same time).  Like the one painted in the garage by the dad in “Malcolm in the Middle”, it got heavier and heavier over time, as she added all sorts of metallic and other things to the surface.  Eventually, she had to move and the window and sill had to go, to get the painting out.

Anyway, she died in 1989, of cancer contracted, so the comic book says, as a result of sucking her brushes to get a point and ingesting the paint thereon.  I went to Google to check out her work, and was staggered by it.  It’s great – go to and have a good look.

Cass Art

For those readers living in London – what’s happened at Cass in Charing Cross Road?  I went there yesterday after a gap of a few weeks, and the staff appear to be all new.  Not a single one of the lovely, friendly old people – well, the old young people – were there.  Presumably they’ve all been promoted (as they deserve); they can’t possibly have been got rid of, surely.


I am just looking at a drawing by M. (a reproduction, alas) entitled “Scherzo, or the torments of the flesh”, that is kept in the Vatican Museum – “well – hidden”, according to the little Taschen by Neret.  The reason for this is that it is a drawing of a man’s profile and he wears a cap in the brim of which, over his left ear, is an enormous, engorged penis, curved and pointing skywards.  The book describes this as a self – portrait, but the profile of the face bears no resemblance to M. as far as I can see.  Perhaps Neret is referring to the penis.


From Michelangelo to Leonardo, and I’m looking at the red chalk “Study for the Last Supper (Judas)”;  again in profile ( no penis this time), the portrait shows an elderly, strong muscled, firm-jawed man with a long Roman nose and wide-eyed, surprised but not dismayed.  Odd that there is no hint of “evil” in the expression, or even weakness, given that it’s Judas.


Which US painter, known as an associate of the AbExes etc., painted George Washington crossing the Delaware river?