Catch Jess Before It Closes July 31 at Tibor de Nagy

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you catch the Jess show at Tibor de Nagy on Fifth Avenue. The show offers a good survey of the quirky Californian artist who has a unique place in the annals of Pop art and the formation of a pre-AIDS gay aesthetic. It closes at the end of this month.

The exhibition contains a varied collection of paintings and paste-ups. Jess is best known for his work from the 60s and 70s though he continued to work until the 1990s–there are examples here from every era. A few large collages (aka paste-up) anchor the show but it is the small pieces that seem to sing–like the collage snapshots above.

There has always been a huge disparity for me between the artist’s thickly painted canvases that feel weighed down with angst and nostalgia (they remind me of Albert Pinkham Ryder) and his collages which can be funny, quick, sly and intelligent.

Here’s some more Jess facts:

  • his wiki bio (real name Jess Collins)….most interesting tidbit: “…educated as a chemist. He was drafted into the military and worked on the production of plutonium for the Manhattan Project;”
  • here’s his massive and stunning “Narkissos” (1976-91) at the SFMOMA;
  • he dated poet Robert Duncan from the time he met him in 1951 until the poet’s death in 1988; and
  • sections of Jess’ paintings ‘Arkadia Last Resort‘ were used by Faithless in 2004 for the front covers to their single “I Want More.”

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