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 John John Jesse  (1969 - )

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: surreal figure painting, ink drawing

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John John Jesse
An example of work by John John Jesse
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Punk rocker and former Catholic School boy for eight years, John John Jesse does work that reflects the gravitation and trials of those two opposites.

Born in New York City's Lower East Side, Jesse first gained notoriety as the founding member and bassist of the legendary influential political punk band Nausea. Nausea toured the D.I.Y. punk circuit all over the United States and Europe in the late 80's and early 90's, and released an LP and various 7" singles. Though since disbanded, to this day they still maintain a loyal following, and have influenced the next generation of the genre.

Having left school and home at 15 years old, equipped with no formal art training, he began doing posters, flyer art, and record sleeves for bands, and organizations like Agnostic Front, Destroy, and the Squat or Rot record label, as well as Nausea.

His unique style during this, "Black & White" period has been recognized on everything from Downtown New York light poles and t-shirts, to "Baby Demonica", his first published work of pen and ink drawings with Sirius in 2002 with limericks by Jesse, and Howie Pyro. This series of drawings laid the ground work for his distinct flair towards obsessive details, seductive women, (so gracefully rendered), and subjects that he has admitted are "the angels and demons that have lived in my head."

His first series of color works appear as the "Demonica Erotica" series. He delves further into not only a mastery of various media, but a style that approaches what many have called, Neo-Art Nouveau on acid.  Most of the works contain solitary figures set against crisp, smoky backgrounds. A depiction of those who seem lost in a world of pain capture our attention, first with their innocence, and then with the bad habits they seem to have plummeted themselves into.

"Catholica Erotica" was an exhibition held in New York City and was very autobiographical in nature, and steeped in portrayals of self-destruction, substance abuse, and mockery of Catholic values.  Now John John Jesse shows his experiences with the hypocrisy of the church and his obsessions with the Catholic school girl, who, has much naughtiness to experience. His subversive use of Catholic iconography is set within narrow vertical spaces, much like the church interiors where he was taught. We get glimpses of behind-the-scenes participation with peers and what the oppressed youth stumbles into. Further technique is the use of a spray can to depict misty surreal backgrounds.

With his work, Punk Electrique, John John Jesse provides more expression of the anarchy of youth. It is a portrayal of class war struggle, street anarchism, and his past teenage destructive punk rock lifestyle---a heroic fight from the gutter of the streets of the 80's Lower East Side, to the triumph of post-addicted street youth.

His ever present attention to detail has certainly become his signature style. The paintings are framed in various woods and metals, both vintage and elaborate moldings sometimes refinished by John John. The models delineation, facial expressions, their clothing and toys, all reflect the artist's pronounced attitude of familiar experiences. Vivid color, built up in translucent layers of colored pencil, gouache, embellished with gold leaf enamel, erupts alongside finely rendered ink drawing and mists of paint.

With increasing volume, small portraits of young rebellious girls and boys, or elaborate dream-like narratives of demons and angst amidst inner & outer destructive natures, and experimentation with sexual discoveries. The same old tale of "No Future" is questioned with the addicted, political and lovelorn rising from the bottom of society to finally being heard.

John John Jesse's amount of energy, precision, idol worship and ceremony, alongside sub conscience delight and fear, gives us an imagery with all it's beauty and defiance. What innocence should be, and what it tragically often becomes, with conviction that can visually speak to generations. He does this with such obsessive detail and flair for originality. To show us that the only hope beyond the tragedy of life, is the fact that he has survived it with his art.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2005 - Hero Worship, Art @ Large, New York City
2004 - Punk Électrique, Art @ Large, New York City
2002 - Catholica Erotica, Art @ Large, New York City

Selected Group Exhibitions

Pop-A-Razzi, DC Gallery, Denver
Built for Speed, L'autre Galerie, Montreal
Seattle Erotic Art Festival, ConWorks, Seattle, WA

X-mas, Art @ Large, New York City
The Juxtapoz Magazine NYC Group Show, Fuse Gallery, NYC
War & Peace: Woodstock Tattoo & Body Arts Festival, Woodstock, NY
New Souls, Copro/Nason Fine Art Gallery, Culver City, CA
The Teribble Toy Fair, CB 313 Gallery, NYC
From Your Valentine, Copro/Nason Fine Art Gallery, Culver City, CA
Misfits and Misanthropes, Fuse Gallery, NY

The Haunted Doll House, Copro/Nason Fine Art Gallery, Culver City, CA
Modern Art Visionary Exhibit, Hawthorn Gallery, Woodstock, NY
Brave Destiny, Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, Brooklyn, New York
How NYC Transformed Sex in America, Museum of Sex, NYC
Nice and Naughty, John John Jesse w/Yumiko Kayukawa, Roq la Rue Gallery, Seattle WA
John John Jesse, Scott Ferry and Isabel Samaras, Perihelion Gallery, Phoenix, AZ

Group Sex II, Art @ Large, New York City
The Blood Brothers Art Exhibit, CB 313 Gallery, NYC
Loren Marks and John John Jesse, Bullet Space Gallery. NYC

Selected Bibliography

-Juxtapoz, #55 Mar/Apr 2005; Punx, Snot, Dead; 6 pages, Reproductions & Interview by
George Petros.
-Talent In Motion Magazine, March, '05, Vol 8, No. 1; John John Jesse - Artist and Powerful
Visionary and Still Punk Rocker, Mark Greenstein, Article & Reproductions.
-Metro, May 19; Not Your Average Birthday Bash, Mention & Reproduction.

-Skylines Magazine, (Austria), September/October; Mention & Reproduction.

-Museums New York, Summer 2003; Reproduction.
-Tablet, April 17-30, A Little Naughty at Roq La Rue; Mary Blalock Review.

-Juxtapoz, Jan/Feb 2002; Artist Photo & Mention.
-Destroy All Monthly From Nausea to Fine Art, Billy Druid; 2 pages, Interview &

Information submitted July 2005 by Pet Silvia, associate of the artist

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