One thinks of narrative occurring in fiction and film, in dance and theater, even sometimes in visual art. Only rarely does one consider the narrative power of a museum exhibition, but SFMOMA's "Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective" is among the finest examples of walk-through storytelling. The exhibit is organized biographically, with her largest, most impressive pieces all facing one another in a single room, representing the dance of big ideas in her mind.
Her forced relocation from her S.F. apartment influenced how she made later pieces, as did her chronic dental problems -- a fascination with transience and decay inhabits every piece, even including the small, quiet ones she was able to work on through the cancer that ended her life. Her life story is set by your pace, or hers. SF Cinematheque builds on this essential piece of American history with its program The Eyes: San Francisco Beat Film 1958-67, a series of short films by and about DeFeo's Beat contemporaries: Christopher Maclaine, Lawrence Jordan, the rare 1961 film The Brink based on ruth weiss's poetry, and The White Rose, Bruce Conner's film about DeFeo and her best-known work, a piece you can approach and add to your own narrative.
The Eyes: San Francisco Beat Film 1958-67 starts Thursday, Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. in SFMOMA's Phyllis Wattis Theater, 151 Third St., S.F. Admission is $7-$10.
"Jay DeFeo: A Retrospective" runs until Feb. 3.