An Evening of Jessoterica with Michael Duncan


December 30th, 2013




Jess Collins artist collage

detail from “Nance” by Jess, in O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica, edited by Michael Duncan. Copyright, Jess Collins Trust.

Join Michael Duncan, the editor of O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica and a leading scholar on the artist Jess, for an intimate evening traversing the extraordinary oeuvre of this American collage master. Duncan (no relation to Robert) will delve into the nooks of Jess’s singular works, sharing insights that will not only delight Jess and Robert Duncan fans but also orient anyone interested in the California avant-garde literary and art scene of the 1950s and 60s.

The lecture/conversation (with projections!) starts at 7 p.m. and takes place at Berl’s Poetry Shop, a family-run poetry bookstore founded by poets Farrah Field and Jared White  and specializing in indie press books and handmade chapbooks. A perfect spot for the event! Berl’s is located at 126A Front Street in D.U.M.B.O. Take the F to York or the A/C to High Street.

The evening is a prelude to “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan and their Circle,” which was co-curated by Michael Duncan and Christopher Wagstaff. It opens at the NYU Grey Art Gallery on January 14. More information about the exhibition here.


JESS (1923-2004), born Burgess Collins in Long Beach, California, abandoned his training as a scientist and his surname in 1949 and enrolled in the California School of Fine Arts. He soon met poet Robert Duncan and the couple embarked on a domestic relationship of shared aesthetic concerns, becoming key generators of the fertile Bay Area art scenes of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Jess’s self-reflexive style of image-making was most powerfully conveyed in the Translations (1959-76), a group of thirty-two paintings based on found images, originally exhibited in his first solo show in New York in 1971 at the Odyssia Gallery and remounted later at the Museum of Modern Art. A major retrospective was organized by the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo in 1993 and traveled to the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.  His work resides in numerous private and public collections including those of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

MICHAEL DUNCAN is critic, independent curator, and a Corresponding Editor for Art in America. His writings have focused on individualistic artists of the twentieth century, West Coast modernism, twentieth century figuration, and contemporary California art. His curatorial projects include surveys of works by Pavel Tchelitchew, Kim MacConnel, Lorser Feitelson, Eugene Berman, Richard Pettibone, Alberto Burri, and Wallace Berman. He is co-curator of the forthcoming exhibition An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan & Their Circle which opens at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento on June 9 and will travel to the Grey Art Gallery, New York University; Katzen Art Gallery, American University; and the Pasadena Museum of California Art.

Read the complete press release here.