Jess Collins, poznatiji kao Jess (1923 - 2004) - slikar i klasik kolažne ezoterike (Ernstova Une Semaine de Bonte opet je neizbježna asocijacija). Radio je i modificirane stripove (Tricky Cad - cut up kolaž stripa Dick Tracy) i vizualnu poeziju.
Siglio Press, 2012.
The artist Jess has been known for decades to cognoscenti as an inventive and sophisticated master of the collage aesthetic. His works are now receiving fresh attention from a younger generation attuned to Jess’s interests in myth, narrative, and appropriation. A unique synthesis of art and literature, Jess’s collages intermingle and juxtapose images taken from wildly eclectic sources (Dick Tracy, Dürer, 1887 Scientific American line engravings, Beatles bubblegum cards, beefcake photos from Physique Pictorial, etc.) in order to re-assemble the meanings of our time.
This volume brings to light collages, collage books, word poems, and altered comic strips that have been largely inaccessible or unavailable since their making. Originally published in small editions and hard-to-find journals, or made as singular artist’s books, these works demonstrate the full range of Jess’s extraordinary verbal and visual play. Legibility has been emphasized in the reproductions, so that the work can be fully engaged and read.
Several of Jess’s surreal comic strip manipulations—including all of the existing Tricky Cads—are reproduced for the first time in their entirety. The book also includes a group of complex wraparound book covers, several unpublished collage poems, and two artist’s books never before reproduced in full—From Force of Habit, a "fantastic tale" which plays with the pages of a cult 1895 Swedish sci-fi novel, and When a Young Lad Dreams of Manhood, a homoerotic paean (and naughty parody of the priapic urge). Jess’s twenty-page collage masterpiece O! is also included as a separate booklet, and the dust jacket unfolds to a 19 x 25 poster reproduction of a large-scale paste-up.
JESS (1923-2004), born Burgess Collins in Long Beach, California, was trained as a chemist and worked during World War II on the production of plutonium for the Manhattan Project. Experiencing anxiety over the ramifications of his work on atomic energy, Jess abandoned science and his surname in 1949 and enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts. He soon met poet Robert Duncan and the couple embarked on a domestic relationship of shared aesthetic concerns, setting up their home as a haven for books, literature, and the art of their friends. Duncan and Jess were active participants in the burgeoning Bay Area poetry and art scenes, developing close friendships with Helen Adam, Wallace Berman, Robin Blaser, George Herms, Harry Jacobus, Patricia and Lawrence Jordan, Michael McClure, and Jack Spicer.
Jess’s self-reflexive style of image-making was most powerfully conveyed in the Translations (1959-76), a group of thirty-two paintings based on found images. They were exhibited in his first solo show in New York in 1971 at the Odyssia Gallery and shown three years later at MOMA. His paste-ups and Tricky Cad works were included in early Pop Art and assemblage exhibitions on both coasts. A major retrospective was organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo in 1993 and traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Jess’s work is the centerpiece of the 2013-14 exhibition, An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan & Their Circle organized by the Crocker Art Museum and travelling to Grey Art Gallery, New York University; Katzen Art Gallery, American University; and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. His work resides in numerous private and public collections including those of the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Critic and independent curator MICHAEL DUNCAN is a Corresponding Editor for Art in America. His writings have focused on individualistic artists of the twentieth century, West Coast modernism, twentieth century figuration, and contemporary California art. His curatorial projects include surveys of works by Pavel Tchelitchew, Kim MacConnel, Lorser Feitelson, Eugene Berman, Richard Pettibone, Alberto Burri, and Wallace Berman. He is co-curator of the forthcoming exhibition An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan & Their Circle.
JESS’S paste-ups and assemblies are children out of Une Semaine de Bonté by Max Ernst—visible poems—and from Finnegans Wake—a night language: “Are we for liberty of perusiveness? Why after what forewhere? A plain planned lifeyism assemblements Eblania’s conglomerate horde. By Dim Delty Deva.” Complex interassociations and transformings of things seen into a new workd image. They may be simply taken, perhaps, as strange phantasms cast by a cunning mind. For those who search out and recognize the identity of each cell of these organisms there is another wonder as the intelligence unfolds itself, the suggestion of a universe that is meaningful thru-out, built up of correspondences, puns, patterns—melodies of things seen. But JESS is an artist: meanings cannot be separated from appearances, spirit cannot be isolated from color and mass, from sensual rhythms. If there is craft here, it is a craft that springs from the minute nervous intuitions of the rime in the world of sight. We in looking, as the artist did in working, have to take care and to follow not only our impulse but more—the genius, the impulse, that we find in everything outside of ourselves. The poetry (the making), the science (the traind knowing), the vision (the discovery) are all one in this art: not impression, not expression but an involvement in what is. —ROBERT DUNCAN
Is That Ick Tra or Trickd or Dickracy?
The artist known as Jess (1923–2004), born Burgess Collins in Long Beach, California, was an important and influential painter and collage artist who had a defining role in the San Francisco Bay Area art scene during the latter portion of the 20th century. He was trained as a chemist and worked during World War II on the production of plutonium for the Manhattan Project. Upset over the catastrophic results, he abandoned science and in 1949 enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts. "Jess’s self-reflexive style of image-making was most powerfully conveyed in the Translations (1959-76), a group of thirty-two paintings based on found images," note the folks at Siglio Press in Los Angeles. "They were exhibited in his first solo show in New York in 1971 at the Odyssia Gallery and shown three years later at MOMA. His paste-ups and Tricky Cad works were included in early Pop Art and assemblage exhibitions on both coasts."
Jess: O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica, edited by Michael Duncan, includes collages, collage books, word poems, and altered comic strips that have been largely inaccessible or unavailable since their making. Originally published in small editions and obscure journals, these works demonstrate the full range of Jess’s extraordinary verbal and visual play.
When Word and Image Collide: 'Jess: O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica'
If we all disappeared tomorrow, vanished in some cosmic or religious holocaust, the world we’d leave behind would be a vast puzzle. If any intelligent life in the universe should stumble upon our empty world its citizens would marvel at the beautiful mountains, forests, deserts and oceans, but they’d scratch their bulbous heads at all the rest: plastic bags, packs of firecrackers, pornography, salt and vinegar chips, the smiley face design, and advertisements everywhere.
What sort of picture would emerge from the collision of these disparate visions, the beautiful and grotesque, the high and the low? How would these hypothetical wanderers interpret a world of such contrasts? Better yet, how do we? We’re still here and we struggle with the same question. Art is key, of course, if only because it’s so essential to who we are. In every medium art shows us our highest ideals and our darkest nightmares, and this gap is bridged by everything from sculpture to velvet painting. Some artists, however, take their inspiration from the incidental, lowercase art we encounter every day.
The artist Jess was born Burgess Collins in California in 1923. He trained as a chemist and worked on projects relating to the development of nuclear weapons. He was so disillusioned by this work he turned his back on science and embraced art. His work carries something of his previous career with it, however. Jess’ collage and paste-ups create ideas, forms, and landscapes from the clipped molecules of media ephemera. Advertisements, comic strips, poems, and pornography become new compounds in his hands. Combining various chemicals in a lab might result in an unstable compound, and on paper Jess’ work is no less explosive.
O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica collects an astonishing amount of work, a dense collection of word and image which presents something new upon each viewing. “Tricky Cad” is a collection of altered Dick Tracy comic strips, the words repositioned to create a surrealist detective story. The strips easily recognizable elements give the viewer the sense, at first, that maybe things are as simple as they appear, but reading the characters’ jumbled dialogue quickly dispels that notion. Reading these perversions of the comic strip, one is struck by what actually remains from the original: attitude and absurdity, the pillars of a great detective story.
The words change, but the images remain largely unchanged. The tension between word and image, as in all of Jess’ work, creates a dizzying effect, the reader stumbling for sense. The brain can’t fill in the holes with meaning. Every word is a struggle. Jess creates the same effect with “Nance”, a frontier comic strip altered to become a parody of ‘50s American masculinity. Characters are pasted into intimate embraces and compromising positions. It’s jarring because of the repressed era in which these strips were created, but it’s also very funny.
“O!”, a pamphlet included within the book in an envelope, is a mini-comic, chap book, zine, and art book published in 1960. Long segments of poems and quotes form the text, and it all washes in and out of black and white images of old technical drawings, bits of sheet music, and other images, layer upon layer of them. Poet Robert Duncan, Jess’ partner for over 50 years, writes in “O!”’s introduction, “Absolutely no part here is originally the artist’s. What he has achieve is totally his, but in every detail derivative.” This comment seems obvious enough given the nature of the work, but it draws our attention not just to Jess’ end result, but how the pieces come together. We don’t need the “why” of Jess’ motivation to understand his intent, but looking at the how, really paying attention to the intersection of images and words on the page, opens up the work to the viewer no matter the medium.
Still, Jess’ work can be overwhelming, demanding, the viewer feeling total immersion in a given piece. His word collages create the effect of speeding down a city street trying to read every word as it flies past. Words and letters are shapes, and Jess creates beautiful typographical arrangements, but the impulse to read remains even in the absence of obvious meaning. These collages become an interaction between the shapes of the letters and the sounds they make. They are poetry.
Playing with language also figures in 1954’s “Maxims for Minions”, a title which is surely also the name of a long lost punk rock record. Meaning is a little less subjective with these maxims: “Love cankers all; honour thy feather and martyr; bards of a father defrock one another.” Jess appropriates the form and shape of well known sayings and plays “Telephone” with them. Coupled with their accompanying collage, these maxims read like wisdom from some alternate reality, one which Jess understood as well as he did our own.
Jess Collins was educated as a chemist and, during his military service, worked on the production of plutonium for the Manhattan Project. He later worked at the Hanford Atomic Energy Project in Richland, Washington, but his growing discomfort & dismay at the threat of atomic weapons led him to abandon the scientific path and focus instead on his artwork.
Jess attended the California School of the Arts (now known as the San Francisco Art Institute) in 1949. Around this time, he disassociated himself from his family & began simply going by the name “Jess“. In 1951, Jess met the poet Robert Duncan, who remained his partner until Duncan‘s death in 1988. Together, along with painter Harry Jacobus, they opened the King Ubu Gallery (later renamed the Six Gallery under the curatorship of poet Jack Spicer), which became an important venue for alternative art.
Many of Jess‘ collages and paintings are thematically tied to chemistry, alchemy, and the occult. Collins has also created elaborate collage constructions using illustrations from old books & comic strips, particularly Dick Tracy.
Jess‘ final work, a beautifully rendered 6′ x 5′ piece entitled Narkissos, is owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Sections of Jess Collins‘ painting “Arkadia Last Resort” were used by Faithless for the cover of their 2004 single, “I Want More“.
Jess Collins passed away at the age of 80 early in 2004 at his home in San Francisco.
Jess: To and From the Printed PageThe Harry Ransom Center hosts the traveling exhibition "Jess: To and From the Printed Page" from February 12 - April 6, 2008. Organized and circulated by Independent Curators International (iCI), New York, and curated by Ingrid Schaffner, the exhibition features more than 50 original works of art, a 16mm film transferred to DVD, a sound recording, sculpture and ephemera.
"Jess: To and From the Printed Page" is complemented by the Ransom Center's concurrent exhibition "On the Road with the Beats," which takes visitors on a journey through the cities, landscapes and communities that fostered and shaped the most important works of the Beat Generation, from the early 1940s to the mid-1960s.
Simply known as "Jess" (1923-2004), the artist Burgess Collins emerged in the 1950s from within the literary context of Beat culture in San Francisco. He developed his own artistic style, filling it with literary references that span the ages from ancient and classical times to the contemporary moment in which he lived.
Jess's imagery was a form of dialogue with the written word. As he once said, "I have always delighted in [the] relationship between words and images [and] thought of the book as a form of collage space."
"Jess: To and From the Printed Page" concentrates on how Jess's visual works connect to the literary culture in which he thrived—personally, intellectually and aesthetically. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Jess developed his artistic style, with printed matter serving as subject, object and fodder. He gave his works titles full of literary references, and many of his literary heroes are evoked directly or referenced throughout his work, including James Joyce, Lewis Carroll, Gertrude Stein and poet Robert Duncan, Jess's companion and career-long collaborator on numerous print-related projects.
Jess collaborated with poets and other writers and worked with small presses and limited-edition publications. His collages, which he called "paste-ups," drew from 19th-century illustrations and engravings, often recalling the Surrealist collage methods of Max Ernst.
The exhibition also contains a work from Jess's "Tricky Cad" series, in which Dick Tracy comic strips are rearranged, his thick, colorful paintings called "Translations" and his "salvages," incomplete canvases he acquired from thrift stores and re-painted or "salvaged" with additional images.
With many of the displayed works having never before been shown together in public, the exhibition enables visitors to better understand Jess as an "outsider" artist who, despite his widespread following of devotees, is an unfamiliar name within the larger contemporary art community today.
The exhibition, tour, and catalogue are made possible, in part, by a grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support provided by the iCI Exhibition Partners.
Jess: To and From the Printed Page
Harry Ransom Center Associate Curator of Art Peter Mears
speaks with Public Affairs intern Anne Frugé about the life and work of
the artist featured in Jess: To and From the Printed Page. The
exhibition focuses on the influential San Francisco artist known as
"Jess" (Burgess Collins) that explores his ongoing dialogue between
visual images and printed text. Imaginative collage works and paintings
derived from poetry, literary classics, and even the Sunday comics are
Interview with Host Curator Peter Mears
Listen Now Read Transcript - www.hrc.utexas.edu/exhibitions/
Jess: Paintings and Paste-Ups
by David Brody
At the Tibor De Nagy Gallery you can reconnect with the singular world of Jess, the poetic visionary who died in 2004, and whose work has not been seen in New York since his astonishing Whitney retrospective in 1994. The current show presents a robust sample of collages and paintings spanning Jess’s strange career, of which nothing is more emblematic than its origin. After years of the straightest imaginable life as a high security nuclear chemist, including a stint producing plutonium for the Manhattan Project, Burgess Collins had an apocalyptic dream that he heeded, in 1949, by enrolling in the San Francisco Art Institute, mythologizing his name, and hooking up for life with a learned bohemian poet, Robert Duncan. Nearly twenty years before the Summer of Love, Jess had Turned On, Tuned In, and Dropped Out.
The pre-hippy, pre-Beat San Francisco Renaissance was fancifully seasoned compared to the professional New York scene Jasper Johns and the late Robert Rauschenberg were setting out to conquer with ostensibly similar means–– collage, assemblage, and semiotics. Jess found himself surrounded by gay occult esoterica and Dionysian nature rite (duly psychotropic, one presumes), in addition to High Modernist poetics, both literary and visual. Clifford Still was an example of such, being one of Jess’s instructors at the Art Institute, though he may not have been as doctrinaire as one would suppose. (Some typically cantankerous letters from Still are on view at the Jewish Museum’s current Action/Abstractionexhibition.)
It was Max Ernst’s seminal tours de force in collage, however, that offered an immediate way into the dream syntax that Jess was in urgent haste to decode. There is an interesting selection of Jess’s collages in Tibor’s show whose salient characteristic is disorientation: resuscitated engravings of machines concatenate with body parts from Life Magazine, the celestial has truck with the banal, time runs backwards and gravity repels. He called them “Paste-Ups,” which can’t help but suggest William Burroughs’ and Bryin Gysin’s contemporaneous “cut-ups,” in which pulp narrative was randomized in search of opiated delusions of Jungian synchronicity. Jess’s early collages can seem, by contrast, a bit genteel, even amateurish; they also suffer in comparison to more formally resolute works by the likes of Bruce Conner, Wallace Berman, or Harry Smith, on paper and film, arising in the same milieu.
But Jess’s learning curve quickly trajects to a sustained mastery. On view is a late epic from 1980 that is undoubtedly among the most ambitious spectacles in the history of the medium. A Cryogenic Consideration; Or Sounding One Horn of the Dilemma (Winter) is packed, as always, with disjunctive cryptic incident, yet the six foot-wide whole is held in tension by a dazzling cosmic sparkle that simulates –without remotely obeying –the laws of a unified visual field. In the age of Photoshop, one may speculate as to what portion of such meticulous whimsy is digitizable and what inheres in Jess’s lifelong labor-of-love of thrift-shopping, slicing, filing, arranging, pinning, and finally– without recourse to Undo– gluing.
Tibor is also showing a prime cross-section of oil paintings. On view are some early, hesitantly symbolist works, but already in Ex.1- Laying a Standard: Translation #1, (1959), you can witness the invention of a radical new practice seemingly declared by a higher authority. The year before, Jess’s colleague Jay DeFeo had started in on The Rose, which was to become the all time poster child for painterly obsession. Jess too began to pile up layer after layer of pigment, in this case upon the lucid perspectival lineaments of an obsolete apparatus from an 1887 issue of Scientific American until it took on the strange, sensuous density of a meteorite pocked and patinated by interstellar wear. Consider that this was the breakthrough upon which a staggeringly brilliant series of 32 Translations across 19 years was founded and it is not too much to say that the painting enacts a true metaphysical redemption: as image coagulates into thing, science is reclaimed by art; mass recaptures energy; and a thermonuclear chemist is reborn as magus, as artist.
In Ex. 3- Fionn’s Finnegas: Translation #4, (1964) a more complex antique diagram solidifies into dreamily colored matter, but here the image is wedged apart at every graphic joint, as if a river system had cut illustrational canyons through strata of time. The crepuscular palette is both quiet and loud, synthetic and organic, primeval and utterly new. The painting is an enigma that you can’t stop looking at. Four of the Translations are on view in this show, and each precipitates, like a word repeated over and over, a luminous, truly euphoric state of nonsense.
You can read the paint-by-number pictorial architecture of the Translations, straightforwardly enough, as a forced zoom into single details of the sort found in cacophonous abundance in the Paste-Ups– scientific diagrams, as noted, but also old postcards and snapshots, bygone children’s illustrations, comics, advertisements, and esoteric texts. Indeed, Jess explained that the series began as training for an epic synthesis of collage and painting, Narkissos, that was never fully realized. Because he needed to learn about free paint handling and remote color harmonics without, in the process, emulsifying the image, he temporarily put aside the fragmented syntax of Ernst. But something happened: an inadvertent stroke of compression which charged the Translations with the altogether more potent humor of Duchamp. This is Jess in a nutshell: sincere literalism colliding with arch semiotics and giving off rare alchemical heat.
Such genuine bathtub fusion as Jess offers may be more valuable to us than anything in art at this moment. Superficial comparisons to DeFeo’s, Milton Resnick’s or Alfred Jensen’s enriched transubstantiations of sheer paint aside, theTranslations might once have seemed outsider-ish. Now this very eccentricity appears to have been strategic, allowing Jess to sidestep Expressionist theatrics, dour Formalist abstinence, and toxic Pop cynicism as lastingly, if by no means as nimbly, as the canonical Johns and Rauschenberg.
When I first came across Tricky Cad, Jess's ferocious cut-up/collage from the old & very popular Dick Tracy comic strip, I spoke to him about making it a part of of a small (16 page) book that we intended to publish by the cheapest means then available. He called the book O! & filled it with it with mostly Victorian & photo-inspired collages, plus his own handwritten & handtyped poems in the manner, I thought, of Christian Morgenstern, whom he was also then translating. The deconstructed comic strips brought the book into the proto-pop world, of which we were still hardly aware, & served I thought as a perfect centerfold (albeit in black & white) for the book we were planning. When O! was nearly done & ready to pass along to the offset printer, Jess raised the sometimes dicey question of permissions. His secret wish, he said, was to make contact with Dick Tracy's creator Chester Gould, who was one of his longtime heroes, & this would give him a chance to do so. I gave him the go-ahead, only to hear a few weeks later that Gould had not only denied permission but had threatened to sue all of us, if I remember it correctly, for every cent we had. There was a lesson in all of that, but in the face of Gould’s threats, which he could afford better than we could, the only choice we had was to retreat. Jess therefore constructed a marvelous comic-style centerfold, “That Sly Old Gobbler or the Orange,” carrying forward the Victorian imagery, and it took a legal/judicial change in the status of parody & appropriation before Tricky Cad was finally – & safely – published. For myself the present posting presents my first chance to join in celebrating Jess’s masterwork, though a full reproduction of O! (in the non-Tricky Cad version) appears in A Book of the Book, edited a few years ago with Steven Clay. -