Bookshelf: XENOGRAPH by James Jean

XENOGRAPH has arrived.

I interrupt our regular schedule of skincare and fashion posts with this first Arts category entry. James Jean‘s first edition crowdfunded art book is complete. This beautifully clothbound collection explores James’ paintings, drawings, and sketches between 2010 and 2014.

XENOGRAPH by James Jean - cover

XENOGRAPH by James Jean - spine


It will pick up where REBUS left off and contain a seven-page gatefold that will unfurl to feature panoramic compositions on each side. Of note, it will collect the complete series of obsessive and surreal ballpoint pen and ink drawings done in my sketchbook during this period.

…Though I’ve had success working with large publishers before, I wanted to try a more direct approach with XENOGRAPH. With your help, I will be able to control the production and quality of the book more closely, distribute it faster, and keep the cost lower without compromising on materials and techniques. Pre-orders at this early stage would greatly decrease the risk and significant capital required to publish a high-quality art book.

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch any of the Box Edition with an exclusive letterpress print, or the Art Edition with the letterpress print + original sketch. Not that I, fresh out of college, was prepared to shell out the cash for those. In any case, this is my first art book from James Jean. I could not have been more satisfied with its print quality and more.

XENOGRAPH by James Jean bookplate
Signed and numbered bookplate (mine is 977/3,000).

My order shipped out in late September, a little later than expected (though a couple of weeks is a small sacrifice for press checks and quality assurance). It arrived in about two weeks. I didn’t even open the package until two days after it arrived. I do that a lot, actually. Even with skincare hauls. I like to wait until I feel like I deserve it, maybe as a treat after a long week, or as a reward to myself.

I had pre-ordered XENOGRAPH as an incentive for me to come back to art (well, mainly as a reward for completing my undergraduate thesis this past summer), and to support this fellow human being. If you only met me recently, you ought to know I grew up with art. I lived and breathed drawing and illustration. Through high school and part of college, I amassed a modest portfolio of work, sold some prints here and there, and ended up in my college’s tiny gallery. I never studied art formally, and purposefully so. I wanted to grow disciplined and direct myself through it without external pressure (just as I try here with writing whatever the hell I want). To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with art or design school. It just wasn’t for me. I neglected this long-beloved occupation for a few years. After graduating with my bachelor’s, I knew it was soon time for me to pick up the visual side of art again.

When I finally opened the package and held the book, I sat down until I witnessed every page, every detail. There was too much to see, and not enough. It’s best to flip through while thinking about nothing, and everything.

XENOGRAPH by James Jean

XENOGRAPH by James Jean

It’s something you could leaf through for minutes and years.

XENOGRAPH by James Jean - gatefold
The seven-page gatefold, including a piece previously featured on the cover of Hi-Fructose Volume 30.
XENOGRAPH by James Jean
Did I mention that I love mushrooms?

James comes to Hawai‘i on occasion; he’s been to POW! WOW! Hawai‘i 2014 and 2015. I went to this year’s POW! WOW! in hopes of running into him and other non-Hawai‘i artists I follow, but clearly they had better things to do—like paint a mural at the Honolulu Museum of Art, one of my favorite local museums. In any case, I was beyond pleased to see Islander, which I hunted down in Kaka‘ako last year, in sketch and final forms in XENOGRAPH.

The final few pages feature an epilogue: an article, which seems to concern much of James’ time out of the public eye, and a collection of photographs related to those experiences. The photos are by Brandon Shigeta (instagram: @bshigeta). It was a pleasant surprise to see him here, as I’d started following his work this past year.

XENOGRAPH by James Jean - Brandon Shigeta photos

XENOGRAPH by James Jean - thank you
And to you.

If you are searching for a visual journey folded neatly and nebulously into a clothbound book, it has arrived. Familiarize yourself with James Jean’s work; when XENOGRAPH’s next printing is announced, look forward to witnessing his recent growth as an artist and human being. Think about nothing, and everything, of your own journey.

*This post is not an advertisement. It benefits no one but myself and readers. 

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