American (Long Beach, California, 1923 - 2004, San Francisco, California)

After his military service during World War II, Burgess Collins abandoned his scientific career due to fears about nuclear proliferation. He broke with his family in 1949, shortened his name to simply Jess, and enrolled in the California School of the Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute). He quickly became a key member of the 1950s Beat scene, along with his longtime companion, the poet Robert Duncan. Although he worked in various media, he is best known for his "paste-ups." These elaborate collages are composed of clippings from magazines, posters, prints, and illustrated books. The fragments coalesce into a unified whole, addressing science, mysticism, sexuality, history, and popular culture. Stubbornly opposed to making art to meet market demands, Jess spent months, even years, collecting and assembling his materials.

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at to verify artwork details.

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