The Written Image

The San Francisco home of poet Robert Duncan and his longtime partner, visual artist Jess Collins, known simply as Jess, served as a gathering place for a number of artists and writers throughout the mid-twentieth century—Denise Levertov, Michael McClure, and Charles Olson, to name a few—prompting creative exchange between the couple and their friends. While Duncan (whose Collected Essays and Other Prose, edited by James Maynard, was published in January by the University of California Press) created wax-crayon drawings along with his poetry, Jess illustrated the title page of Duncan’s 1960 collection The Opening of the Field (Grove Press) and created Surrealist-inspired assemblages called “paste-ups” from risqué magazines, photographs, advertisements, and illustrations. An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle, an exhibition of 180 artworks, letters, and ephemera on display at New York City’s Grey Art Gallery until March 29, highlights the work and collaborative influence of the couple. It will also be on view in Washington, D.C., at the Katzen Arts Center from April 26 to August 17 and at the Pasadena Museum of California Art from September 14 to January 11, 2015. The image below by Duncan, titled Self Portrait With Shadow, is included in the show and in an eponymous anthology of the works, along with critical essays, published by Pomegranate Press last November. Fans of Jess’s work may also want to check out O! Tricky Cad and Other Jessoterica, edited by Michael Duncan and published by Siglio Press in 2012.