new-york

Jess, “Danger Don’t Advance,” Salvages IX (last painting), ca. 1990, oil on canvas, 44 x 18 3/4". From the series “Salvages,” ca. 1970–94.

Jess

Tibor De Nagy Gallery

Jess, “Danger Don’t Advance,” Salvages IX (last painting), ca. 1990, oil on canvas, 44 x 18 3/4". From the series “Salvages,” ca. 1970–94.

The painter and collagist Jess (1923–2004) had a poet in his life, of course. On New Year’s Day, 1951, he exchanged vows with Robert Duncan, sage of the San Francisco Renaissance, and they lived together for nearly four decades. But the poet that Jess’s early paintings—nineteen, made between 1950 and 1966, were exhibited here—brought to mind, for me at least, was Frank O’Hara, specifically his “Memorial Day, 1950”: “Fathers of Dada! You carried shining erector sets / in your rough bony pockets, you were generous / and they were lovely as chewing gum or flowers! / Thank you!” Jess disparaged his own graphic skill, often choosing to copy from magazines, and the jerky innocence of his hand seems limned in O’Hara’s lines, as does the eroticism, conscious of itself as overwrought yet wholly sincere, in works like Hiding Little in Big, 1959, wherein a pair of boneless swains

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