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We’ve been taking an active interest in James Jean’s post-comics career in fine art, covering the multiple-Eisner winner’s exhibition Parallel Lives at New York City’s Jack Tilton Gallery in January, and featuring the innovative e-book created from that show’s catalog in June. However, a worrying interview with Juxtapoz magazine designed to publicize the show makes it clear Jean’s head was in a very negative place, preoccupied with the details of a messy and painful divorce that was on the verge of leaving him bankrupt and at the end of his tether.
Jean’s response to the situation appears to have been to disappear for a while, but he’s reemerged in Asia, seemingly never being too specific about his location, and posting this message via his Instagram account:
“Hello, everyone. Sorry I’ve been away for so long–I’ve missed you but I’m not quite back either. I may never come back… It’s been 6 months since I was forced to shutter everything in LA and moved overseas. No more home, studio, car, or bank accounts. Life is simpler now with only a sketchbook and a camera at my side, the basic necessities obtained through barter.”
I dare say there’s an element of exaggeration and self-myth building in that statement, but I’ll take it mainly at face value. Part of this new lifestyle must mean jettisoning the upkeep of his web domain, as Jean is now instead posting new art via Tumblr: After starting it in January, huge amounts of art was info-dumped there in February, March and April. Now knowing his state of mind in the past year or so, it’s hard not to reevaluate his work, looking for signs of the tumult he found himself in. In retrospect, images of characters being overcame by forces of nature, chaos and entropy are everywhere in his art. This recent piece is a fairly extreme (and somewhat NSFW) example of this leitmotif.
Here’s a couple of mildly NSFW GIFs hosted at the Tumblr that also reveal a certain anger and frustration emerging in Jean’s work. Here’s hoping the man achieves the peace he’s seeking.