The San Francisco artist Jess (1923–2004) has for decades been known to cognoscenti as an inventive and sophisticated master of the collage aesthetic. Recently however, his works are receiving fresh attention from a younger generation attuned to Jess’ interests in myth, narrative and appropriation. Jess used images taken from sources ranging from Dick Tracy to Dürer, from a Beatles bubblegum card to medical textbook drawings, from 1887 Scientific American line engravings to frames from George Herriman’s Krazy Kat. In reexamining myth through a synthesis of art and literature, Jess’ work remains a crucial assemblage of the meanings of our time. This volume brings to light collages, collage books, word poems and altered comics that have been largely inaccessible or unavailable since their making. Originally published in small editions and hard-to-find journals, or made as one-off artist’s books, these works demonstrate the full range of Jess’s extraordinary verbal and visual play. Several of Jess’s surreal comic-strip manipulations, Tricky Cad (1954–1959), are reproduced for the first time in their entirety, as are others such as Ben Big Bolt and Nance that have never before been published. The book also includes a group of complex wraparound book covers, several unpublished collage poems, and two artist’s books never before reproduced in full: From Force of Habit, a “fantastic tale” which plays with the pages of a Swedish cult sci-fi novel, and When a Young Lad Dreams of Manhood, a homoerotic paean (and naughty parody) of the priapic urge. A facsimile reproduction of the 20-page collage masterpiece O! is included as a separate booklet, and the book sports a dustjacket that folds out into a poster-size collage.
Published by Independent Curators International. Foreword by Judith Olch Richards. Prologue by John Ashbery. Text by Ingrid Shaffner, Thomas Evans, Lisa Jarnot, Brandon Stosuy.
Jess: To and From the Printed Page focuses on the artist simply known as "Jess" (1923-2004), and celebrates his lively and lifelong dialogue with poets, poetry and printed matter. Published to accompany the iCI touring exhibition, it features collages made for publication, the books and magazines in which they were reproduced, as well as many previously unreproduced paintings, drawings and assemblages. The book offers a fresh perspective on Jess's work by specifically addressing the interrelation between his art and the California literary culture of which he was a part. It also explores the intimacy of the collaborations and conversations in which he participated over five decades, and points to his effect on younger artists today--through his use of "pop" materials in collage and paint, his early homoerotic themes and his enjoyment of the book format as a compositional vehicle.