Jul 29, 2010 0
Film Forum is doing a Bruce Conner retrospective in November, and I am eagerly anticipating seeing the short The White Rose up on the big screen. I’ve only viewed it via Tudou (which also has uploads of Conner’s seminal A Movie and Vivian).
The Beat artist Jay DeFeo spent many years of her life painting just one massive picture. Eleven feet tall, eight feet wide, and weighing almost a ton, it grew so heavy from the built-up layers of pigment that it had to be removed from her studio by cutting away the wall and lifting it out via crane. This process is memorialized by Conner (a close friend) with an almost clinical austerity, augmented by a melancholy Gil Evans soundtrack.
What happened to the painting after the film? It was rarely exhibited due to its size and precarious condition, and was put into storage and plastered over to keep slabs of pigment from breaking off the surface. It was eventually acquired by the Whitney and uncovered many years later. For most viewers, the primary means of encountering Defeo’s legendary painting was through Connor’s film. A protest as well as a lament, The White Rose is a singular testament to Defeo’s life work — a mammoth flower that rarely saw the light of day, but bloomed through the light of the projector.
More: John Perreault’s Artopia essay on “The Rose”