Friday, January 11, 2013

Show Opening: James Jean – “Parallel Lives” @ Tilton Gallery NYC, January 9 2013

This week my friend Mark Frangos and I attended the latest show from James Jean, which marked the NY follow up to the artists last show at Jonathan Levine Gallery entitled Kindling in January of 09. I thought it was only right that Mark pen the story as he has been a fan of Jean's work longer than I have and would see things differently than me coming from comics rather than my introduction to the artist via the fine art world… 

It’s been 11 years since James Jean broke out as a cover artist for Vertigo’s successful Fables comic series. After seven years and winning numerous industry awards, Jean left the world of commercial projects to focus on painting where his star has continued to rise.

On Wednesday, January 9, Jean made his triumphant return to the New York art scene with Parallel Lines, a solo exhibition of paintings and drawings. The Tilton Gallery on 8 East 76th Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues will house the exhibition through February 16. 

If you are unable to visit the gallery, Pressure Printing released the catalogue documenting Parallel Lives in an edition of 1000 that’s signed and numbered for $38.

James Jean – “Wave (Buried)” 2012 Archival inkjet print mounted on aluminum 44 inches diameter

The core of Jean’s work lies in his detailed linear pen and ink drawings that fill countless notebooks and inform virtually all of his creative output. His larger drawings suggest personal fairy tales that merge with decorative abstractions, whereas his paintings capture individual narrative moments and comment on contemporary life. Even in these, abstract drips of paint or grids of dots overlaid on the image draw the painting back into an imaginary dream world where nothing is as stable as it appears. This duality is also emphasized in a few paintings that were created as diptychs, pairings of representational rectangular paintings with digitally produced images of crashing waves.

“These images represent separate realities, but there is a relationship and tension between the images when they are paired together,” Jean explained.

James Jean - "Pagoda" 2012 Apraypaint, acrylic, & ink on 84 wood panels 112 x 192 inches.

Jean’s work has been influenced by diverse sources such as Chinese scroll painting, Japanese woodblock prints, Northern Renaissance art and Durer etchings. It evokes the worlds of M.C. Escher, Aubrey Beardsley and Hieronymous Bosch as well as psychedelic artists of the sixties. "Pagoda" which takes up an entire wall at 112 x 192" exemplifies this best. 

One of the pieces on display was a print of the art Jean provided for rapper Talib Kweli’s new album Prisoner of Conscious. Jean’s intricate, colorful stylings serve as a mask which contrast with the figure’s haunting eyes. 

James Jean - "Talib Kweli" 2012 Archival inkjet print mounted on aluminum 23 x 20 inches.

Jean was on hand at the opening and available for his legions of fans that span from different periods of his career. He happily posed for photos and answered any questions about his work and the show.

Jean was born in Taiwain in 1979 and moved with his parents to New Jersey where he grew up. He received his B. F. A. from the School of Visual Arts in New York and has been living and working in Los Angeles since 2003.

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