Untitled (Samurai Series), 1986
Acrylic on paper
49 7/8 x 38 1/8 inches
Samurai No. 8, 1987
Tempera, pastel and charcoal on rag board
42 x 64 inches
Untitled (Samurai series), 1986
Acrylic, oil pastel and oil with collage on paper
As can often be the case with art-viewing, it's interesting to go from one show to the next and think about how they are linked together. In this instance, I had just seen Michael Heizer at Gagosian (see here). Obviously, DeFeo's expressionistic brushwork aligns formerly with the Heizer paintings, though they take shape, literally, in slightly different ways. Heizer's shaped canvases literalize a sculptural tendency while the DeFeo's work within the more traditional rectangle of painting. Known to lay it on thick, it's interesting for these De Feo's to be much thinner. I suppose it's due partly to the fact that they are on paper and not another stronger support, perhaps the way a multi-ton Heizer stone would be propped by the architecture. Both are weighty. (The DeFeo painting below titled The Jewel (1959) from the LACMA collection, incidentally was the first painting I ever hurt my back on as an art handler many years ago).
Indeed, both artists seemed to have lightened up over the years. One can't help but think in the DeFeo about internal light sources with the contrasting black and white producing such an illusion, and the tinted palettes in some of the Heizer's seems to work similarly.
Faceting and angles persist in both bodies of work, one in varying degrees by natural stone, shaped canvases and simplified, hard-edged presentation, the other in the painted slashes like those of a Samurai action. So, nature process, body, and metaphor go hand in hand with both of these exhibitions. That said, one seems content with a kind of contained, pictorial concern; the other with how the pictorial is an immersive experience on account of its interaction and contingency with the architecture, the site, within which it is contained. Perhaps a larger question could be about the persistence of such art-making strategies or at least the current display of such artifacts, ones that speak to the lifting forces of nature over long periods of time.