From comic book to art gallery: The brilliant and beautiful art of James Jean
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‘Bouquet’ (2016).
My closest, kindest and best friend has a family motto, “Per ardua surgo.” “I rise through difficulties/difficult things.” It’s a sentiment that could easily apply to the brilliant artist James Jean, who has risen through his own personal difficulties to achieve incredible success as an artist and designer. What could be more personal than an unnecessarily long, painful, and acrimonious divorce where a spouse refuses to settle? This is what apparently happened to Jean. His ex-wife refused to settle, leaving the artist allegedly penniless, homeless, utterly depressed and “neutered.” Eventually, Jean had to move overseas where he lived on “subsistence and barter.” Yet, even when his art was being commodified by lawyers as potential future assets, Jean kept drawing, kept painting, and kept illustrating his way through.

Jean first came to prominence as a commercial artist and cover illustrator for comic books like Batgirl, the Green Arrow, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and most spectacularly Fables. His awe-inspiring work earned Jean a sackful of prizes including seven Eisner awards, three consecutive Harvey awards, and a row of gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators in both Los Angeles and New York. He has also collaborated on designs for Prada.

With such a prodigious and prolific talent it was perhaps inevitable that Jean made the switch from comic books to art galleries in a series of beautiful and brilliant prints and paintings in mixed media and oils which he has been exhibited in group and solo shows since 2001.

James Jean was born in Taipei, Taiwan, in 1979, and raised in New Jersey. As a youngster, he has said he was more interested in playing the trumpet than making art. This changed under the tutelage of his high school teachers, Steve Assael, Thomas Woodruff and Jim McMullan, who recognized his artistic talent. Their encouragement inspired Jean to enroll at the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1997, where he engaged with various different techniques before developing his own intricate and recognizable style. He graduated in 2001 and then began his career with DC Comics.

I think James Jean is one of the major artists of the twenty-first century who is in a direct line from Warhol, Hockney, and Koons, and further back to Dali and Picasso. The range of Jean’s work—in its diversity of technique, style, and subject—is virtually unparalleled. His oeuvre includes minutely detailed almost hallucinogenic sketches like “Samurai” to more traditional portraiture and Surreal digital work like “Aides Lapin,” to his progressive pop art of canvases like “Sprinkler” or “Bouquet.”

When once asked what advice to give young, budding artists Jean replied:

“Keep making work even if you don’t know what you have to say. You’ll only find your voice through the struggle.”

Jean has found has certainly found his voice.

See more of James Jean’s work here.
‘Good Lord’ (2016).
‘Flip’ (2006).
See more fabulous art by James Jean, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
03:00 pm
Meet the Cubies: Modern Art spoof from 1913

The revolution started on February 17, 1913, when four thousand members of the American public were confronted by the work of a group of European artists exhibited at the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Avenue, New York. The shock of this cultural invasion, called the Armory Show, claimed many. Some laughed. Some fumed. Some had an attack of the vapors. There were even those who felt their senses had (somehow) been physically assaulted by the canvases painted by artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and in particular Marcel Duchamp whose Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 proved to be the most sensational exhibit on display. This, many critics and members of the public claimed, was not art, it was mere childlike daubing. It was anarchy. 

When the exhibition arrived in Chicago, the Illinois Legislative Investigators probed “the Moral Tone of the Much Touted Art” over its “many indecent canvasses and sculptures.” When a third city Boston capitulated to the exhibition later that year, Modernism had arrived in America and nothing would ever be the same.
Press respond to the Armory Show from 1913.
While some welcomed this cultural shift, there were many who clung to the security of the old order of classical art. In 1913, writer Mary Chase Mills Lyall (1879-1963) and illustrator Earl Harvey Lyall (1877-1932) produced an ABC book—intended for both adults and children—which poked fun at this strange new art. Their book The Cubies featured three ultra-modern, triangular figures of indeterminate sex who “moon over anything Cubist and scorn objectivity.” They owed their “incubation” to the Association of American Painters and Sculptors who had organized the Armory Show. Together these three characters lead the reader through their modernist manifesto of art:

A is for Art in the Cubies’ domain–
(Not the Art of the Ancients, brand-new are the Cubies.)
Archipenko’s their guide, Anatomics their bane;
They’re the joy of the mad, the despair of the sane,
(With their emerald hair and their eyes red as rubies.)
—A is for Art in the Cubies’ domain.

B is for beauty as Brancusi viewed it. C is for “Color Cubistic” where artists are advised to throw paint on a canvas and then exhibit it. D is for Duchamp “the Deep-Dyed Deceiver.” And so on and so on.

Their intention was to belittle and to deride the pernicious influence of this “shock of the new.” What happened next to this husband and wife team is unimportant. It was how America’s artists responded to the challenge set by the Armory Show that mattered. Artists responded not with a hankering for the past but with radical imagination and innovation which placed the United States at the center of Modern Art for the next sixty years.
Read the rest of ‘The Cubies,’ after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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