News Release — October 15, 2007
Exhibition Examines Interplay of Jess's Art with the Written Word
The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin 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.
High-resolution press images from the exhibition are available.
"Jess: To and From the Printed Page" can be seen in the Ransom Center Galleries on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended Thursday hours to 7 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays the galleries are open from noon to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Mondays.
Jess: To and From the Printed Page is a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by iCI (Independent Curators International), New York. Guest curator for the exhibition is Ingrid Schaffner. 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.
Founded in 1975, iCI is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the understanding and appreciation of contemporary art through traveling exhibitions and other activities that reach a diverse national and international audience. Collaborating with a wide range of eminent curators, iCI develops innovative traveling exhibitions, accompanied by catalogues and other educational materials, to introduce and document challenging new work in all mediums by younger as well as more established artists from the United States and abroad.
About Curator Ingrid Schaffner
Ingrid Schaffner is the senior curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, where she has organized exhibitions of the work of Polly Apfelbaum, Karen Kilimnik, Barry Le Va, Sarah McEneaney, Pepon Osorio, and Richar Tuttle, along with the group exhibitions The Big Nothing and The Photogenic: Photography through its Metaphors. She has also curated Pictures, Patents, Monkeys, and More...ON COLLECTING, organized by iCI (2001-02); Julien Levy: Portrait of an Art Gallery (AXA Gallery, 1998); and Deep Storage: Storage, Archiving and Collecting (Haus der Kunst, 1998); among others. She has written extensively on contemporary art for Artforum, Parkett, Grand Street, Frieze, and other publications.
The illustrated, 112-page exhibition catalogue begins with a prologue by poet John Ashbery, and includes a principle essay by exhibition curator Ingrid Schaffner, who discusses Jess's work from the thematic viewpoint of the exhibition, and a text by poet and literary scholar Lisa Jarnot, who addresses the literary and cultural scene in which Jess worked. A glossary by Thomas Evans and Brandon Stosuy offers readers an essential reference to terms used or coined by Jess and his circle, as well as information about the various small presses in northern California that produced the books and other printed matter authored by Jess and his colleagues. The catalogue includes reproductions of most of the works in the exhibition, as well as documentary photographs of Jess. This unique reference bridges the visual and literary world of the period. The catalogue is published by iCI and distributed by D.A.P. The retail price is $29.95