Waiting. Acrylic and Pastel on Cradled Wood Panels, 34 x 34″, 2010 by James Jean. Click image to view source.
You’ve probably seen James Jean’s work around the Internets. Maybe you love it like I do. He seems to draw and paint the other people breathe. It’s delicious, mysterious, pleasing and disturbing at once.
I’ve never seen Jean’s work in person. It occurred to me to ask myself why, other than the quality of the work itself, do I enjoy looking at it online?
Because James Jean has an excellent website.
Coco Chanel famously said that when a woman dresses shabbily, people notice her dress, but when she dresses well, people notice the woman. I looked at Jean’s drawings and paintings for several years before I noticed how well he presents it online. Here are some reasons why:
Less is more.
It’s a cliche that independent artists often combat, but Jean lets his work speak for itself. His site design is absolutely spotless. No explanations, no exclamations. Just the art, loud and clear.
Big, beautiful photos
He doesn’t make us squint to see the work. The photos aren’t fuzzy, washed-out, or imbalanced. The Reclamare scarf is a good example.
Up close and personal
If we can’t see the work in person, we can at least pretend. I wish more artists offered close-up details of their work like this.
Because artists never stop learning or practicing, especially when it comes to the figure.
I’d like to thank the artist for putting all this work where we can see it. Keep it up.
This series by illustrator and art educator Chuck Dillon (his website, his blog) speaks directly to my art school experience. I’m not sure which category I fit in to, so I’ll just go with the one that happens to look EXACTLY like me, down to the paintbrushes stuck in the overalls pocket:
Brownnoser by Chuck Dillon. Click image to view source.
Tate I, photo by Flickr user Martino’s Doodles. Click image to visit the Flickr page.
It’s easy to label me as an artist: I paint. I paint pictures. I paint pictures of people. Easy, right? I don’t happen to be particularly turned on by conceptual art, or art that’s deliberately obfuscated, or art objects overshadowed by the artist’s mission to “break boundaries” and “challenge preconceptions.”
Before you click away, conceptual artists, please hear me: I love you. And also you guys, who like to paint pictures of kitties and geraniums: I love you, too. Art is art, and it takes all kinds. There, I’ve said my thing.
Boundaries are ‘broken down’ and ‘preconceptions challenged’ so often as to make subversion and radicality seem like a mandatory daily chore rather than a blow to the status quo. They perpetuate old-fashioned notions, such as that of the artist visionary liberating the masses from mental enslavement by bourgeois values. Overuse has made these words sound strangely toothless, for what’s at stake in the art is often less important (but not necessarily without value) than the language suggests.
Of course, what constitutes “the art world” is an ever-shifting tapestry of popular opinion, preconceptions, and nebulous reputations. (Perhaps some boundary-breaking is warranted here.) It seems one is either in it or not. It’s hard to say when exactly an artist becomes part of the art world, we usually rest upon the consensus that they have arrived. This vague notion of the art world as an establishment points out our links to the tired cliche of the artist as revolutionary. At what point does the liberator become the institution?
This is just one of the many questions I asked myself while reading Fox’s article (via Kristin Anderson). I didn’t come up with many answers. I’ll continue to think about how deeply the following resonates with me:
You have to understand the pieties: the weight of an artist’s monograph or how many times their name crops up on e-flux announcements; someone’s preference for reading October rather than frieze; the internationalism of the contemporary art world – some romantic residue of the idea that, if you travel regularly by plane, you must be high-powered because your business reaches far outside your locality; artist names exchanged as collateral by those jockeying for position in the marketplace of curating or criticism. These are the little curlicues that adorn the edifice of the professional arts establishment.
How can you tell if it’s New Media Art? Here are some tips.
(New Media Art in the Aughts is what web art was in the 90s, installation art was in the 80s, and performance art was in the 70s. That is, largely oblique and inaccessible unless done very well.)
This handy list was put together by the Near Future Laboratory, a “think/make design & research practice focusing on digital interaction designs based on “weak signals” from the fringes of digital culture, where the near-future already exists.”
(Thank you, Drawn!) Friends, I’ve just seen something, and you should see it too. Do you know the feeling that rises, when you’re reading or watching or hearing something, and your sense of time slows, your muscles fill with cooling gel, and you think, “Oh my God, this is important“? I watched this film and sort of felt my world turn a corner.
Still from Ryan, an animated film by Chris Landreth.
Not only does Landreth use his medium for purposeful and poetic storytelling, but he portrays strikingly accurate visual representations of love and addiction. Watch the film online at the YouTube Screening Room.