Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Muse: Duncan & Jess Exhibit

Jess, Feinting Spell, 1954
Oil on Canvas, 48" x 42"
Crocker Art Museum
Partial Gift of The Jess Collins Trust
With Contributions from George and Bea Gibson Fund,
March and Mort Friedman Acquisition Fund,
Rose Huckins Memorial Fund, and Michael Himovitz Fun

In the first exhibition examining the artistic life and relationship of poet Robert Duncan (1919-1988) and Bay Area painter and collagist Jess Collins ("Jess"; 1923-2004), the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California, is showing through September 1 "An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle". Duncan and Jess, influential members of the 1950s Beat scene, met in 1950 and remained domestic partners and professional collaborators until Duncan's death. Their San Francisco home was both salon and gallery space for their artistic friends.

Encompassing more than 100 individual and collaborative works of art, from Jess's allusive and fantastical paintings and sculptures to Duncan's poems and essays illustrated with Jess's drawings and collages, the exhibition also places on view personal letters from private and public collections. In addition to Duncan's and Jess's collaborations, the exhibition includes a selection of works by such artists as R.B. Kitaj, Edward Corbett, Wallace Berman, Lawrence Jordan, and George Herms and poets Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser, and Michael McClure. Also on view are posters made by Jess for the Berkeley Cinema Guild, which Pauline Kael managed from 1955 to 1960, photographs, and ephemera. Some objects are being shown in public for the first time.

A 250-page catalogue including essays by Crocker curator William Breazeale and guest curators Michael Duncan and Christopher Wagstaff, as well as James Maynard, associate curator of the Poetry Collection at the University of Buffalo, accompanies the show.

The exhibition will travel to Grey Art Gallery at New York University (January 14, 2014 - March 29, 2014), Katzen Arts Center at American University, Washington, D.C. (April 26, 2014 - August 17), and Pasadena Museum of California Art (September 14, 2014 - January 11, 2015). I look forward to seeing the show when it reaches D.C. 

Resources of Interest

Selection of Exhibition Images on FaceBook

Victoria Dalkey, "Crocker Exhibit Focuses on Life, Times of Jess and Robert Duncan", The Sacramento Bee, May 31, 2013

Robert Duncan Profiles at Academy of American Poets, EPC, and Modern American Poetry

Poems by Robert Duncan at Poetry Foundation

Crocker Art Museum on FaceBook and Twitter

Michael Boughn, Editor, The H.D. Book (The Collected Writings of Robert Duncan) (University of California Press, 2012)

Lisa Jarnot, Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus: A Biography (University of California Press, 2012)

Christopher Wagstaff, Editor, A Poet's Mind: Collected Interviews with Robert Duncan, 1960-1985 (North Atlantic Books, 2012)

Siglio Press's O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica, Michael Duncan, Editor

Arion Press's The Boobus and the Bunnyduck by Michael McClure is illustrated with art by Jess.

Arion Press's The Structure of Rime by Robert Duncan is illustrated with etchings by Frank Lobdell.

"Jess: To and From the Printed Page", 2008 Exhibition at Harry Ransom Center, Interview (Audio and Transcript) with Associate Curator Peter Mears

Ken Johnson, "Jess, 80, San Francisco Artist Known for Layered Imagery", The New York Times, January 10, 2004

Kenneth Baker, "Jess Collins - S.F. Painter, Collage Artist", Obituary, San Francisco Chronicle, January 7, 2004

Katie Geha, "The Assemblages of Jess", Essay, The Poetry Foundation

Kenneth Rougeau, "Narkissos: The Influential Collage Art of Jess Collins", PaperStreet Supplies (Narkissos is a graphite drawing on paper and paste-up, considered one of Jess's most important works. It was acquired in 1996 by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. See About the Artwork.)

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