Los Angeles

Jess Collins

Rolf Nelson Gallery

Jess (Collins) has been well-known in the Bay Area for a number of years as the creator of metaphysical, poetic collages (generally limited to black and white) composed of old magazine photographs, engravings and illustrations. These depended upon subtle juxtapositions of images cleverly made to appear as if the original material was found in the form presented. They were closely related to the collages of Max Ernst but dealt in a cosmology more complex and, often more esoteric than Ernst’s. The present show is composed of a series of oil paintings executed over the past five years. In these, Jess has attempted to transmute the imagery of the collages into intact, simple compositions. His sources, generally old scientific illustrations or photographs of obscure 19th century art are shown and explained with texts that accompany each painting. The paintings themselves, though, apart from the literature, have a kind of strange, mystifying beauty. There is a precise kind of draftsmanship amazingly built up from many layers of pigment, that creates a tactile quality that in turn heightens the luminosity of the color and the obsessiveness of the images. The tremendous thicknesses of paint are built up from various colors, and, possibly, forms, designed to reveal themselves over the centuries as layers of paint crack and peel with age. These pictures seem to have arrived mysteriously from old, lost traditions that have somehow been reawakened and presented with a freshness and inherent acceptance of modern pictorial ideas that is remarkable.

Don Factor