James Jean art and prints edition can be bought in his online store

James Jean

Taiwan 1979

Illustration, Fine Art, Painting


James Jean
James Jean
May 30, 2016

If you’re an artist, then your practice should be a daily thing. When observed like a concept that you pursue every single day, there is unavoidably something mechanical and unemotional about that process. James Jean is a young Taiwanese-American artist, who understands that no matter how much the practice becomes similar to repetition, we’re still humans in the end. He thinks of his body as a mechanical vehicle fueled by his emotions, whatever they may be – anger, hate, subdue, or sorrow. The biggest fear for James Jean is getting crippled by some sort of depression and not be able to get up and create every day.

James Jean art and prints edition Seasons 2018 and 2019 can be bought in his online store if you contact the artist
James Jean – Seasons, 2014

Beautifully Composed James Jean Art

The artist’s imagination is on another level as he constantly creates compositions of characters, ethereal and in motion, always graceful in gesture. The laws of gravity are broken and the places depicted are some other, distant and unclear planes of existence. The elements of traditional symbolism are entwined in dynamic narratives, altogether forging Jean’s unique and widely recognizable style. Among the things that inspire him the most, the observation, memory, and imagination stand out as the principle aspects of his work. There is an ever-present conflict between the artist’s desire to avoid any meaning and intent in the process of creating, letting the pure act of observation of what’s happening before him dictate what he does; On the other end, James Jean is interested to see how his prejudices and predilections influence his work, to create solely from imagination and memory.

James Jean shows characters that are ethereal, in motion and always graceful in gesture

James Jean art and prints edition from 2015
James Jean – Kali, 2015 (Left) / Sadhu, 2015 (Center) / Tobacco, 2015 (Right)

Between Commercial and Personal Work

Illustration was the first step on his artistic journey. While at school, he wanted to do pretty much anything that would require him to draw, if he could get paid for it. And then, after working briefly for New York Times and getting rejected from some major book publishers, James Jean attracted the attention of DC comics, where he began doing covers. That turned into a regular job for about seven years, all the way until 2007, when he turned his focus to his personal work. It is interesting that, during that period, despite his intention to shift completely to the personal work, his commercial gigs were hugely successful, as he worked for Time Magazine, Playboy, Prada, Rolling Stone, Linkin Park, just to name a few of his employers. For a time, Jean enjoyed the pressure of deadlines and constraints of illustration, since he learned to solve problems fast and polish his work until it gleamed. But he felt that in order to grow, he needed a change, so now he works in fine art, where the challenges and rewards are much greater on the intellectual and spiritual level.

In fine art, artists can claim rewards, much greater intellectually and spiritually

James Jean prints edition can be bought in his online store if you contact the artist
James Jean – Bless Your Heart, 2016 (Left) / Good Lord, 2016 (Right)

Trading One Passion for Another

As a teenager, James Jean was mostly interested in music. Playing the trumpet was an obsession of his, and while he had an interest in drawing, he would spend his time in the basement practicing jazz. The feeling of creating sound through metal was simply addictive. But, despite all of that, he applied to art school, where he traded his addiction to music for another addiction – the drawing. Jean studied at the New York School of Visual Arts. His covers were incredibly popular and acclaimed, earning him 5 consecutive Eisner Awards and 3 consecutive Harvey Awards for Best Cover Artist. He also won three Gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, first in 2000 and then two in 2007.

As a teenager, James Jean was mostly interested in music

James Jean latest artworks from 2018 and 2019 are available in his online store
James Jean – Hand (Vessel), 2014 (Left) / Bowler (Vessel), 2014 (Center) / Foot (Vessel), 2014 (Right)

Seeking Peace

It was February of 2013 when things finally went completely out of hand (following a messy divorce), so Jean left the USA and severed his connections with almost everything. He moved to the Philippines and even had to trade some of his paintings just so he could have a place to stay. After two years of living abroad, he’s now trying to get his life back to normal. During this travel, he became interested in photography, so it will be exciting to see where this change will lead him. The most important thing for him is peace, as he states that he works best when he is calm and undisturbed. There are still some challenges (there are always some, the life is ever-changing and nothing is certain), but he’s emotionally speaking at peace, right where he needs to be so he could stir up entropy on canvas.

James Jean lives and works in Los Angeles.

Featured image: James Jean – portrait, image via hidari-zingaro.jp
All images courtesy of the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Takashi Murakami s Superflat Collection - From Shohaku and Rosanjin to Anselm KieferYokohama Art Museum, Yokohama, JapanGroup
2015ZugzwangHidari Zingaro Gallery, Tokyo, JapanSolo
2014MasterworksLong Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CAGroup
2014SuperAwesomeOakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CAGroup
2013Parallel LivesJack Tilton Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2013VitruviusMartha Otero Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2013The Pond, the Mirror, the KaleidoscopeVisual Arts Gallery at the School of Visual ArtsGroup
2013The Pond, the Mirror, the Kaleidoscope: Contemporary Figuration Through a Symbolist LensSVA Chelsea GalleryGroup
2012City of FireStephen Webster, Beverly Hills, CAGroup
2012Gin & JuiceIvory & Black Soho, London, UKGroup
2011RebusMartha Otero Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
2011Rebus Book ReleaseArt Catalogues, Ahmanson Building, LACMA, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2011OniomaniaMartha Otero Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2011Artists Wanted - A Year In ReviewArtists Wanted - New YorkGroup
2011FlashAnonymous Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2010L.A. Secret Studio: David Choe & James JeanParco Factory, Tokyo, JapanGroup
2010Aftershock LARoyal/TGroup
2010Street SmartAffirmation ArtsGroup
2010Pop Surrealism, What A Wonderfool WorldMuseo Carandente, Spoleto - Dorothy Circus Gallery, RomeGroup
2010Five Year AnniversaryJonathan LeVine Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2009KindlingJonathan Levine Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2009GR BiennaleJapanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2009Juxtapoz 15th Anniversary Benefit Art AuctionThe Factory Place Arts ComplexGroup
2009Giant Robot Biennale 2: 15 YearsJapanese American National MuseumGroup
2009JOYRIDECollective HardwareGroup
2009GRAFUCK International Erotic Art ExhibitGallery NucleusGroup
2009True SelfJonathan LeVine Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2008Just In: Recent Acquisitions from the CollectionLeonard Dobbs Gallery, Architecture and Design, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NYGroup
2008Beyond Baby TattoovilleMembers Gallery, Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, CAGroup
2008BABY TATTOOVILLE 2008Mission Inn Hotel and SpaGroup
2007Installation Scion Art Tour 4 NYCThe Reed SpaceGroup
2007The Painted BirdLeo Kesting Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2006Panelists 2Giant Robot Gallery, San Francisco, CAGroup
2006Black and WhiteCompound Gallery, Portland, ORGroup
2006UnforgivingThe Changing Room, New York, NYGroup
2005Idols of PerversityBellwether Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2005SoothsayersScion Installation Space, Culver City, CAGroup
2005Characters, Scene IISilvermine Guild Arts Ceter, New Canaan, CTGroup
2005Characters, Scene IShore Institute of Contemporary Art, NJGroup
2001International Printmaking CompetitionSoHo20 Gallery, New York, NYGroup