The artist Jess (1923-2004) emerged in the 1950s from within the literary context of Beat culture in San Francisco. The life partner of poet Robert Duncan, Jess collaborated extensively with poets and other writers, and worked with small presses and limited-edition publications throughout his career. Something of a cult artist, Jess is less widely known than some of his contemporaries, but his art is deeply revered by many.
Jess: To and From the Printed Page concentrates on works that Jess created especially for publication and reproduction, and is built on the idea that the artist’s imagery is a form of dialogue with the written word. The exhibition features examples of Jess’s celebrated impastos, collages, and designs, as well as the books and magazines in which they were reproduced.
Though drawn to the Surrealist works of Max Ernst, and considered a progenitor of Pop art and an early exponent of appropriation art, Jess ultimately stands apart from any contemporary art movement. The diverse, intricate works presented in this exhibition reward close and sustained viewing, and provide a sense of the intensely fertile literary and art-world environment in which he thrived.
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.
The Wisconsin presentation of Jess: To and From the Printed Page has been made possible by the Terry Family Foundation; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin; and the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. The First Fridaysopening of the exhibition has been generously supported by Newcomb Construction Company; M&I Bank; and J.P. Cullen & Sons, Inc.
Gallery Talk with Michael Jay McClure • Friday, September 7, 6:30–7 pm
Michael Jay McClure, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Art Department, will discuss Jess: To and From the Printed Page. McClure teaches the theory and history of modern and contemporary art; he is also a poet and poetry scholar. Main Galleries.
Kids' Art Adventures • Sunday, September 9, 1–2:30 pm
Jess cut pictures and words from popular magazines and combined them to make imaginative collages, which he sometimes bound into a book. Participants will view some of Jess’s artworks and have fun putting words and pictures together in their own simple books. Activities are planned for 6 to 10 year olds, but younger siblings are also welcome. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Meet promptly at 1 pm in MMoCA’s main lobby. Free.
Gallery Talk with Lynn Keller • Friday, September 14, 6:30–7 pm
Lynn Keller will discuss the intersection of Jess’s work with literature and poetry, as well as his long collaboration with his partner, the poet Robert Duncan. Keller is the Martha Meier Renk-Bascom Professor of Poetry at the University of Wisconsin- Madison Department of English; her research interests include American poetry since 1950. Main Galleries. Free.