Jess

American

1923, Long Beach, California
2004, San Francisco, California

Biography

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.


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