Years ago a friend turned me on to the poet Robert Duncan and we were able to meet him. And through his association with Duncan, I learned of Jess. There is a show of his work at Reed right now.
I went with a friend who said: “It’s so strange to see such an intimate, almost unambitious show. Everything has to look so perfect these days – so slick.” And if not slick, at least clever. It is true that nothing in this show really looks like product, but more like evidence of a life and its relationships.
And of course it’s a child of its time: the beat stance of the 1950s bled into the full-blown hippie groove, as evidenced in some of his book covers from the 60s. Touches of Art Nouveau, Mucha and Beardsley – can’t imagine anyone could escape that if you lived in San Francisco in 1967.
As far as collage goes, a lot of the show is a rough cut and I can think of much better artists working in the medium. And this medium is not any more held strictly within the confines of 20th century than photography or painting would be. What this exhibition really felt like was more a document of a tender time and life, like when Henri spoke of art as: “ - the trace of your being, the thing you leave behind.”