Jess Collins

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Jess Collins
Born Burgess Franklin Collins
(1923-08-06)August 6, 1923
Long Beach, California
Died January 2, 2004(2004-01-02) (aged 80)
Nationality American
Education San Francisco Art Institute
Known for Visual art

Jess Collins (August 6, 1923 – January 2, 2004), simply known today as Jess, was an American visual artist.

Biography[edit]

Jess was born Burgess Franklin Collins in Long Beach, California. He was drafted into the military and worked on the production of plutonium for the Manhattan Project. After his discharge in 1946, Jess worked at the Hanford Atomic Energy Project in Richland, Washington, and painted in his spare time, but his dismay at the threat of atomic weapons led him to abandon his scientific career and focus on his art.

In 1949, Jess enrolled in the California School of the Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) and, after breaking with his family, began referring to himself simply as "Jess". He met Robert Duncan in 1951 and began a relationship with the poet that lasted until Duncan's death in 1988. In 1952, in San Francisco, Jess, with Duncan and painter Harry Jacobus, opened the King Ubu Gallery, which became an important venue for alternative art and which remained so when, in 1954, poet Jack Spicer reopened the space as the Six Gallery.

Many of Jess's paintings and collages have themes drawn from chemistry, alchemy, the occult, and male beauty, including a series called Translations (1959–1976) which is done with heavily laid-on paint in a paint-by-number style. In 1975, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art displayed six of the "Translations" paintings in their MATRIX 2 exhibition.[1] Collins also created elaborate collages using old book illustrations and comic strips (particularly, the strip Dick Tracy, which he used to make his own strip Tricky Cad). Jess's final work, Narkissos, is a complex rendered 6'x5' drawing owned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

A Jess retrospective (Jess: A Grand Collage, 1951–1993) toured the United States in 1993–1994, accompanied by a book of the same title. The book included pictures of some of the paintings and collages from the tour. Interspersed between the pictures were essays by various contributors including poet Michael Palmer who wrote an extended piece on Jess' Narkissos.

Sections of Jess' paintings 'Arkadia Last Resort' were used by Faithless in 2004 for the front covers to their single "I Want More."

In 2008 an exhibition of Jess' drawings was held at Gallery Paule Anglim in San Francisco.[2]

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