A remarkable portrait of a web of artistic connections, traced outward from Jay DeFeo’s uniquely generative work of art
Through deep archival research and nuanced analysis, Elizabeth Ferrell examines the creative exchange that developed with and around The Rose, a monumental painting on which the San Francisco artist Jay DeFeo (1929–1989) worked almost exclusively from 1958 to 1966. From its early state to its dramatic removal from DeFeo’s studio, the painting was a locus of activity among Fillmore District artists. Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, Wally Hedrick, and Michael McClure each took up The Rose in their photographs, films, paintings, and poetry, which DeFeo then built upon in turn. The resulting works established a dialogue between artists rather than seamless cooperation. Illustrated with archival photographs and personal correspondence, in addition to the artworks, Ferrell’s book traces how The Rose became a stage for experimentation with authorship and community, defying traditional definitions of collaboration and creating alternatives to Cold War America’s political and artistic binaries.
Elizabeth Ferrell is associate professor of art history at Arcadia University.
“Drawing on in-depth archival research and ephemeral artifacts, Ferrell illuminates the creative exchange between the Fillmore District artists of San Francisco and their activities as they related to DeFeo and The Rose. . . . Highly recommended.”—A. Verplaetse, Choice
Winner of the SECAC Award for Excellence in Scholarly Research and Publication
“An insightful reading of Jay DeFeo’s The Rose and the dynamics of creative community building in postwar America.”—Ken D. Allan, Seattle University
“Rich in archival detail and incisive visual analysis, About The Rose makes a highly successful intervention into the field of postwar art by advancing a new approach to the function of community in the Fillmore art scene during the 1950s and 60s.”—Joanna Pawlik, author of Remade in America: Surrealist Art, Activism and Politics, 1940–1978
“Ferrell gives us a wholly new understanding of The Rose not just as an important presence in the lives of her protagonists, but as a site for working out the dichotomies between self and other, autonomy and collaboration, and art and the everyday in postwar America.”—Kirsten Swenson, author of Irrational Judgments: Eva Hesse, Sol LeWitt, and 1960s New York