Jess: To and From the Printed Page

Image Gallery

May 9 - July 20, 2008

Jess Collins, known simply as “Jess” (1923—2004) was a highly influential Bay Area painter and collage artist who emerged in the 1950s within San Francisco’s burgeoning literary culture. An accomplished chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project, Jess abandoned his scientific career in protest of nuclear weapons and devoted his life to art, moving to San Francisco in the late 1940s, where he met the poet Robert Duncan. The two remained life partners until Duncan's death in 1988. In 1952, Jess, Duncan and painter Harry Jacobus opened the King Ubu Gallery in San Francisco, which became a center for alternative art and culture. Often working on large-scale, serial projects, Jess gradually evolved his unique method of meticulous collage work and representational painting, incorporating both popular and esoteric source material in complex compositions. Jess collaborated extensively with filmmakers, poets, artists, and writers, including Robert Duncan, Larry Jordan, Denise Levertov, Micheal McClure, Wallace Berman and Harry Jacobus.

Friday, May 16, Jess: An evening of experimental film, music, food, and conversation
Doors open at 6:30 pm; films begin at 7:30 pm. Admission is $6 at the door, no reservation required. Podkrepa Hall—2116 N. Killingsworth Ave. Portland, OR. 

On view Friday, May 8—Sunday, July 20 at the Cooley Gallery
Free and open to the public.

This special selection of films, assembled by Cinema Project’s Jeremy Rossen, brings together films that were either directly or indirectly inspired by Jess.The films are shown in 16 mm:

In Between
Stan Brakhage [1955, 16mm, color, sound, 10 min.]

Visions of a City
Larry Jordan [1957-1978, 16mm, sepia, sound, 8 min.]

The Man Who Invented Gold
Christopher Maclaine [1957, b&w & color, sound, 14 min.]

The 40 and 1 Nights (or Jess' Didactic Nickelodeon)
Larry Jordan [1961, 16mm, color, sound, 6 min.]

Christopher Maclaine [1958,16mm, color, sound, 6 min]

Ron Rice [1962, 16mm, b&w, sound, 28 min.]

Wallace Berman [1958-1976, 16mm, color, silent, 10 min.]

The film In Between by Stan Brakhage, with music by John Cage, is a portrait Brakhage made of Jess, “a daydream nightmare in the surrealist tradition.” Legendary Bay Area filmmaker Larry Jordan collaborated with Jess on The 40 and 1 Nights (or Jess' Didactic Nickelodeon). Jess performs 41 collages to selected sound bits in the manner of a turn-of-the-century nickelodeon. Jordan collaborated with poet Micheal McClure on Visions of the City, a portrait of both McClure and San Francisco in 1957. Christopher Maclaine was active in the early Beat scene of North Beach in the 1940s and 1950s, as one of the authentic characters at the very emergence of the Beat movement on the West Coast.

The Man Who Invented Gold is MacClaine’s masterpiece about a madman’s alchemical quest for gold, while Beat captures the existential angst and futility of bohemian life. Senseless by Ron Rice portrays ecstatic travelers going to pot over the fantasies and pleasures of a trip to Mexico. Aleph, by Wallace Berman, is an artist’s meditation on life, death, mysticism, politics, and pop culture. In an eight-minute loop of film, Wallace Berman uses Hebrew letters to frame a hypnotic, rapid-fire montage that captures the go-go energy of the 1960s and has been described by Stan Brakhage as “the only true envisionment of the sixties I know.”