In Dialogue: A Conversation about Jess, Robert Duncan and their Circle


October 16th, 2014



Jess, The Enamord Mage: Translation #6 [detail], 1965. Oil on canvas over wood, 24 ½ x 30 inches. Collection of The M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Copyright Jess Collins Trust.


In Dialogue: A Conversation about Jess, Robert Duncan and their Circle

Sunday, October 26 at 1 p.m. Free with PMCA museum admission.

Moderated by Michael Duncan (curator of the exhibition and editor of Jess: O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica) will discuss Jess and Robert Duncan’s circle in relation to the development of the art and literature scenes of the 1950s and 60s, as well as touching on the group’s use of collage as a formative concept in their writings and art works. Panelists include artist Richard Kraft, writer and curator Kristine McKenna, and publisher and designer Lisa Pearson.

PMCA is located at 490 East Union Street, Pasadena, CA 91110. Phone: 626.568.3665


 An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan and their Circle

Exhibition runs September 14, 2014 – January 11, 2015


An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and their Circle is the first exhibition to focus on the work of this genre-bending group of West Coast artists. Jess (1923–2004), who produced fantastical paintings, collages, and assemblages, and Robert Duncan (1919–1988), who wrote poetry in eclectic, myth-laden verse, were one of the most fascinating artistic couples of the 20th century. After they met in San Francisco in 1950, their work became increasingly intertwined, their dense, allusive creations permeating one another. An Opening of the Field includes 180 paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, films, and ephemera — many of which have never been shown in public. The show features numerous works by the visual artists and poets in their circle, such as Wallace Berman, George Herms, and R. B. Kitaj, revealing the complex and fertile interplay between poetry and art in San Francisco during the 1950s. An Opening of the Field is organized by Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum with guest curators Michael Duncan and Christopher Wagstaff, and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

Previous venues:

Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento: June 9 – September 1, 2013
Grey Art Gallery, New York University: January 14 – March 29, 2014
Katzen Art Museum, American University, Washington, DC: April 26 – August 17, 2014


Bruce Hainley in ARTFORUM on An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan and their Circle:

“Finally, with Jay DeFeo’s epic work making a grand tour, a definitive edition of Robert Duncan’s The H. D. Book becoming available, and Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian’s recent collection of Jack Spicer’s poetry spiking the cultural punch, certain elemental structures of the San Francisco Renaissance are coming into focus. Using as its launchpad the dynamic domesticity of Duncan and his longtime companion, the still too little celebrated collagist Jess (Collins), this show of thirty-five artists from their magic circle — many too long in the shadows, with Lilly Fenichel, Miriam Hoffman, and Lawrence Jordan among them — should underscore the visual concordance of that groovily finicky heyday.”


Read more about Jess and Siglio’s 2012 publication O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica.

Read the complete press release here.