“Jess: To and From the Printed Page explores one of the richest themes in the work of the influential artist known as Jess (1923-2004) – the ongoing dialogue between visual images and written words, which the artist derived from the poetry, literature, comics, and other printed matter that were integral to his oeuvre. Jess emerged from the context of San Francisco’s thriving mid-century literary scene, and this compelling exhibition affords a view of the limited edition magazines and small presses with which he collaborated throughout his life. A most imaginative artist, Jess was steeped equally in the art and poetry of his time and in the modernist and Victorial literature he so treasured, and this project’s multifaceted theme embraces his whole range of creative interests and activities.
Featuring some fifty original works of art and dozens of items of printed ephemera for which many of his original artworks were made, this exhibition enables viewers to imagine themselves in Jess’s studio, immersed in the archival nature of his practice of reading and research, cutting and compiling, pinning and pasting. By entering into his process, one gains a greater unerstanding and appreciation of this ‘outsider’ artist who, despite the following of passionate devotees, is still an unfamiliar name within the larger contemporary art community.
Finally, as Ingrid Schaffner highlights in her curatorial essay, Jess’ art is strikingly timely: his intimate works on paper, collage-based practice, and densely layered images – an aesthetic of appropriation and diverse references – clearly resonate today, in a world that is ever more inundated by endless rivers of images and texts streaming in and out of our consciousness, as we struggle to make sense of it all.”
—Excerpt from foreword to the exhibition catalogue by Judith Olch Richards