Jess: Opening of the Field

Jess, Feignting Spell, 1954, oil on canvas, 42 x 48 inches (collection of the Cr
Jess, Feignting Spell, 1954, oil on canvas, 42 x 48 inches (collection of the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento)

Peter Frank reviews the exhibition An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan and Their Circle at the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento (through September 1), as well as the new book Jess: O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica (Siglio Press) edited by exhibition co-curator Michael Duncan.

Frank writes: "Jess's insouciant profundity accounts in great part for the pleasures of his work. They also come from his technical virtuosity and apparently constant desire to surprise himself, to push a little boundary here, a bigger boundary there, until, it seems, there was nothing Jess wouldn't try. Ambitious, almost Blakeian livres d'artiste with Duncan's poetry, collages and drawings realized in antique frames that seem to render the frames at once noble and silly, figurative paintings based on literature, photomontages and other appropriative collages that bespeak an awareness of Max Ernst's books (which anticipated, or helped spur, Ernst's influence on 1960s psychedelic art) or deft and daft seasonal cards that he made with Duncan, all these hybrid 'minor' gambits evince a sensibility so voracious it needed to fuse its muses in order to harness them."

Art Ltd