When I began my career, I was struck by the lack of support I received from galleries and museums in Japan. I quickly learned that I needed to take the initiative to establish a place for myself in the art world. When I see an artist like James Jean, who at the age of 37 has achieved both independence and widespread recognition, I am both envious and filled with a desire to protect him from the forces that might assault that independence. Though he is perhaps best known for the dreamy, intricate illustrations that have graced the pages of Rolling Stone and The New York Times and the covers of DC comics and novels, Jean’s recent work as a painter has seen him create images densely layered with societal references and semiology. He calls these works, and the subconscious visions that inhabit them, “amalgamations of culture.” They draw freely from pop culture, myth, the internet and the margins of history, reflecting the chaotic mental state of living in an increasingly interconnected world. The contemporary art community has only begun to recognize the breadth of his work. It will take a brave and curious curator, one who can look beyond his technical virtuosity and ubiquitous internet presence, to unwind the many threads of meaning Jean now entwines. He deserves nothing less.
This story appears in the November 2016 issue of Playboy. Subscribe