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Home Opening Photos James Jean @Jonathan Levine

James Jean @Jonathan Levine
Written by J.L Schnabel   
Tuesday, 27 January 2009 03:34
At the age of 29, Taiwanese born L.A artist James Jean is already retiring from a successful commercial career that won him popular acclaim and multiple prestigious awards. His work has appeared on the products and interiors of high fashion house Prada, as well as on numerous 'Fables' covers for DC/ Vertigo comics. The courage to leave the commercial world to pursue his personal narratives has been rewarded with his astounding first solo show hosted by Jonathan Levine gallery in NYC.


'Kindling'
James Jean
@Joanathan Levine
529 W. 20th Street, 9th Floor.
New York

Words and photos, J.L Schnabel

View of center room and 'Toymaker.'

At the age of 29, Taiwanese born L.A artist James Jean is already retiring from a successful commercial career that won him popular acclaim and multiple prestigious awards. His work has appeared on the products and interiors of high fashion house Prada, as well as on numerous 'Fables' covers for DC/ Vertigo comics. The courage to leave the commercial world to pursue his personal narratives has been rewarded with his astounding first solo show hosted by Jonathan Levine gallery in NYC.

A monk-like, faceless child maneuvers through the crowd on his turtle in 'Toymaker' oil and pastel on Rives BFK 41x90 in.

Another faceless child exposes his inner landscapes. His phantom limb shows a wooden center. His face features a mix of pastel scribbling and his skeleton.

View of the left wall installation featuring 'Vanity' and 'Ballad'

The ephemeral large-scale paintings were composed on paper, linen and canvas and were executed with oils and pastels, a strong departure from his digitally colored commercial work. Raw pastel scribbling and fluid paint drips evidence the physical hand of the artist in his dream-like worlds where innocence is juxtaposed with the threat of destruction. Several of the paintings were painted on separate panels revealing homage to Chinese silk scroll paintings, one of the many inspirations Jean has admitted.

Detail of 'Vanity.' Oil on Rives BFK ,41x29 in. A figure with a head full of butterfly wings applies a red line of lipstick that echoes the red electrical cord on the floor.

Detail of 'Fountain 2' Oil and Pastel on Rives BFK, 41x29 in. A young boy with ghostly legs drinks from a beautiful angelic fountain.The fluid motion of the paint is mirrored by the waterfall in the background and the water flowing from the fountain.

The bottom of the fountain is a menacing skull, looking up the boy as he drinks.

The natural settings of the work echoes the title, 'kindling', as in collected wood branches and sticks used to build a fire. Many of the children are carrying sticks; some are used for walking, others are used for carrying their treasures while in some rare cases they are used as weapons. Contrasting the hardness of the wood in the work are the petals and leaves that grow and twine around the figures, in 'Hive' they are literally growing within a young boy as a system of veins and organs. The fluid motion of the surfaces mirrors the softness of the leaves and petals and the beautifully controlled color palette.

View of installation featuring pale and faded children.

Detail of 'Hare' Oil on Rives BFK, 30x22 in.

Drawing for 'Vanity' Jean has a specific, meticulous process that he is known for involving detailed drawings used as bases for his paintings.

Many of the pale figures in the works are either fading children or elfish females, each in a critical moment of action or existing in the aftermath of one. The few men are depicted as a decaying knight, a shattered piñata, a stone fountain and an old toymaker carting his masks and animals through a crowd of faceless children. Often the children are pictured playing games such as baseball or rolling a hoop around in 'Maze'. This playful innocence is sharply juxtaposed by the hint of violent mischief in paintings such as 'Shattered' where a young girl has broken up the body of a man with a tree branch and pulls up her blindfold to admire her work. This interesting mix of innocence and death culminates in the only painting unavailable for purchase, 'Hide'. At the center of a tree like structure, a young, dark haired child, whose face is masked, pours a cup of tea for a grinning skeleton while other children play around them.

Detail of 'Hide' 4 panels of acrylic on linen. 50x88in.

Deatil of 'Hide' A skeleton in repose receives a cup of black tea from a small child.

Installation view of 'Swan.' 4 panels of mixed media on linen. 50x88 in.

As a first solo show, Jean triumphs with his personal vision. A small corner of the gallery features more "free form" paintings that exhibit the childlike scribbling seen only faintly in the other works. This corner seems to be slightly removed from the other more tightly composed works. Replacing the soft colors are bright primary colors, a bold use of black and more visible line work. It's as if, in this corner, of this NYC gallery, Jean is showing yet another side of his ever evolving process and aesthetic that is only beginning to become un-raveled as his solo career takes off.

Detail of 'Swan.' A white haired young child, possibly a foil for the black haired figure in 'Hide,' holds a pair of scissors, about to cut into the fluid tail of the large swan centered in the painting.

Installation view of 'Shattered' and 'Maze.'

Detail of 'Shattered.' Oil and Pastel on Rives BFK, 41x60in. A young girl stands over a shattered man while small red frogs emerge from the remains. In the background, another piñata floats over the court.

'Kindling' runs through February 7th 2009 at Jonathan Levine gallery, N.Y.C.

Words and photos, J.L Schnabel

--
'Kindling'
James Jean
@Joanathan Levine
529 W. 20th Street, 9th Floor.
New York {moscomment}

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contact FF

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IMG_9585_sm

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//////////
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ABOUT HEADLANDS
Headlands Center for the Arts provides an unparalleled environment for the creative process and the development of new work and ideas. Through a range of programs for artists and the public, we offer opportunities for reflection, dialogue, and exchange that build understanding and appreciation for the role of art in society.

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