Abstract painter and educator James Jankowiak has impacted Chicago’s artistic community for almost thirty years.
James grew up on the south side of Chicago, and knew he was an artist as a wide-eyed three-year-old. Once he got a little older, graffiti kickstarted his artistic practice. “I used graffiti as both an identity to navigate the gang-infested streets, and as a vehicle to get on a path to my studio practice in my early 20s,” he tells NOT REAL ART. “As a teen, I had adult activists in my life who facilitated art-based programming that helped to put me on the right path, leading me to becoming deeply invested in the young people of Chicago and their artistic development.”
That formative experience led James to work as a contractor for the Chicago Public School system, where he became deeply invested in the artistic and personal development of the city’s youth. As a teaching artist, he integrates contemporary art into a social and emotional learning model for students and teachers alike, often resulting in public student-driven installations.
James’ current body of work captures “the reverberations of music and prayer” through rhythmic compositions, spartan lines, and an ascetic color palette. Painted in synchronized bands of graduated color, “An Anthem for Cats and Dogs” is a meditation on differing perspectives. “All of the colors are based on the cone cells in [cat and dog] retinas,” he tells NOT REAL ART. “I attempted to make a painting where we see something exactly how someone/thing sees it, at least when it comes to detectable colors. I thought it was an interesting metaphor for life in America right now, the divisions.”
Painting in distinct units helps James see and feel the rhythm pulsating under each painting, a process he likens to playing guitar or piano, “where the left and right hands intertwine and synthesize.” Using repetition, ritual, and familiar forms to create introspection, James’ work prompts viewers to recognize spiritual connection through physical means.
Painting in distinct units helps James see and feel the rhythm pulsating under each painting, a process he likens to playing guitar or piano, “where the left and right hands intertwine and synthesize.”
James Jankowiak: Instagram
All photos published with permission of the artist(s); photo credit: Tom Van Eynde.
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