(Review) O! Tricky Cad & Other Jessoterica
San Francisco-based collage artist Jess (1923–2004) used cut-and-paste images and prose from a wide variety of sources, such as newspaper comics and Victorian era line engravings, to tell complex stories about myth, pop culture, and sexuality. By training a chemist, Jess, born Burgess Collins, abandoned science in 1949 after a vivid nuclear nightmare. Art school led to his collage work, which reflects a wry sense of humor and a feverish compulsion for image collecting. His early efforts at carving up Dick Tracy panels became the series, “Tricky Cad,” a multi-part, Dadaist effort that reveals the beginnings of his aesthetic approach. Throughout the 1950s, he continued to borrow the language of comics to develop works such as “Ben Big Bolt,” that use humor and homoeroticism in equal measure. Later works from the ’70s and ’80s, such as “A Lesbian Estate,” comprise dense overlaps and juxtapositions of imagery that repay intense study. Jess’s “paste-ups” seem both age-old and modern, and a renewed interest in remix culture makes this beautifully crafted book timely; its publication coincides with the beginning of a traveling exhibition of his work set for 2013 and 2014.