Thursday, May 07, 2015

 BOOK REVIEW! JESS...O! TRICKY CAD & OTHER JESSOTERICA edited by Michael Duncan (Siglio, 2012)

San Fran beatno/collagist Jess Collins actually wrote Chester Gould for permission to publish the "Tricky Cad" series of DICK TRACY reimages that Collins had spliced together during the mid-fifties. Gould's retort was curt 'n sweet..."IF YOU PRINT THESE I'LL SUE YOU FOR EVERY PENNY YOU HAVE!" which is probably why you haven't seen any of these mentally askew takes on the classic comic strip unless you peeked into one of a few pop art books that dared publish  'em. But now that Chester Gould is dead 'n gone and come to think of it so is Jess it's safe to read 'em, and of course "Tricky Cad" appears in this collection of Jess collages along with a whole slew of his work and the freakier amongst us should be all the more happier because of it.

Jess' creations were to scissors, paste and a whole lotta old books and newspapers what William Burroughs' cut ups were to novels and John Cage's aleatory methods were to music. Maybe not as chance-taking as any dadaist around you might have cared, but the results were good enough especially for a Bay Area homo who wasn't exactly gonna set the art world on fire with his techniques. Good enough that I can stare at his comic disasterpieces finding heretofore undetected weirdo gags for minutes on end while some atonal drone blares away on my boom box. Good enough that his work makes fellow collage types like Winston Smith (not exactly a top notch fave I will admit) look positively wilted in comparison. Good enough that I ain't even bugged by the frequent homo angle that consciously or not winds its way into the art (at least it's tasteful which is something you could rarely say about the homo experience). And if you like clean cut, well oiled sailors you too will go for it but please, don't let me know about it.

Besides "Tricky Cad" we are also treated to his "deconstructions" so-to-say of Warren Tufts'  LANCE now entitled "Nance" (gotta say I was disappointed because I thought that Jess was gonna take on none other than my other personal comic fave NANCY!) and John Cullen Murphy's BIG BEN BOLT which was cut up into "Ben Big Bolt" ('n how gay c'n ya get with that!). Somehow I get the feeling that these along with "Tricky Cad" are the way most of the inmates residents at the old fogies home where Brad Kohler works actually see the comics presented to them whenever a newspaper is tossed their way which makes me wonder...if they read these Jess takes on 'em would they look normil??? Maybe Brad can toss a copy of this book their way and let us know the results!

1 comment:

Bill S. said...

Jess was also the long-time partner of the great San Francisco poet Robert Duncan, which is how I first heard of him. I'm glad you are mentioning him. His life's work did not really fit into any existing category, so he rarely gets mentioned as much as he deserves...also, so many people today are doing a lame fourth-or-fifth-rate ripoff of what Jess did that we don't realize how radical it must have seemed in its day.