Monday, December 31, 2007

pattern simpler / patterns complex

jess / duncan book cover

"the nurses insisted
it is a clean white sheet
i admitted that it might be...
colors brighter by midnight
pattern simpler
once i almost saw
an unknown color"

jess, four intervals passing in a ward

yesterday, i finally managed to see the exhibition - jess/to and from the printed page at the pasadena museum of california art. the show focused mainly on jess's works that were created for print, and consisted mainly of collage works, printed books, broadsides, a few paintings, drawings, ephemera, etc.

i've been a fan of his work for a long time, initally discovering the collages, and eventually being floored over by his incredibly underrated paintings. two standouts (and surprises) in the show, were a 1969/70 recording of jess reading some of his own texts, and a short experimental film he made with filmmaker lawrence jordan in 1962.

the film, entitled 'the 40 and 1 nights, or jess's didactic nickelodeon', featured still images of collages, each accompanied by a snippet of sound from an LP, film soundtrack, and even a bit of james joyce's voice. the connect and disconnect between the images and the sound bits (which appear for only a few seconds), seem connected to the merce cunningham quote below in terms of sound and visual relationship potentials. i only wish the film were projected in a dark room rather than playing on a crappy small monitor with a pair of headphone dangling...

(and speaking of lawrence jordan, you should not miss this beautiful film of his i found on youtube)

the recording of jess speaking his own texts was also pretty darn wonderful. while the barrage of words made it difficult at times to to focus on the printed works in the exhibition, it gave all of the works in the show another level of vision. the animated sound of his deep voice was a butterfly-like spiderweb filling every empty corner and whitewall gap in the space; and very much presiding over the entire experience.

a footnote in the catalog mentions that a compiling of jess's text works is in the works, which will be a welcome addition to an artist's oeuvre that is already quite faceted - one can only hope the book will include a cd of these recordings of the artist reading...

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Blogger Woolgathersome said...

Beautiful post... I took as many courses as possible with Larry Jordan while at SFAI and I remember Jess being present in almost every one of them... Larry and, in many ways, Jess were incredible early influences I'll never forget... And, of course, I love that Larry took the only film footage of Joseph Cornell. Wonderful, wonderful artists - all three!

2:25 PM  

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