Featurin' Pop Art

You'll find various articles on pop culture artists or artworks featured here. This is James Jeans' "Rift"

Featurin' Anime/Manga

You'll find various articles on anime + manga artists or artworks featured here. This is KYMG's "butterfly M82A1"

Featurin' PC/Video Games

You'll find various articles on PC + video game related artists or artworks featured here. This is Jeong Juno's "Last Rebellion"

Anyone familiar with the pop art scene is also most undoubtedly knowledgeable of James Jean. Taiwanese American artist of highly prolific works, you'd be hard pressed to find many individuals who are completely unfamiliar with his art. Lyrical, disturbing, and infinitely beautiful, his art always makes an unforgettable statement. Rebus may not be his premier art book (that belongs to Process Recess 1) but it’s a full blown, full release book not only meant to please his established fans, but to further wow the unexpecting masses. 

Basic Stats
Title: Rebus
Author/Artist: James Jean
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Pages: 240 pages
Dimensions: 23 x 31 cm :: Hardcover
Date of Publication: Sept.21, 2011
ISBN: ISBN-13: 978-0-81187-125-9 | ISBN-10: 0-81187-125-8
Retail Price: 45.00 US


                As I first held this book in my hands and felt the smooth thick covers brightly adorned with an all over print of James Jean’s art, I already knew this book would be impressive. From the art books I have reviewed thus far, I find Rebus to be closest to the ideal in terms of standard construction. It is hardcover, albeit missing a dust jacket, and the exterior is done with a smooth matte finish, perfect for concealing finger prints or easy to keep clean in general. Smooth and thick boards ensure the interior will be protected for years to come.

               The paper quality is exceptional and some of the best I’ve seen for a mass market, non specialty release. The interior pages are bright white, and super heavyweight (among the thicker sheets I’ve seen) to prevent any bleed through the pages. The semi-gloss finish does a great job of presenting his colourful paintings accurately. I heard James Jean is a real stickler for absolute accuracy of the colours in his reproductions, so I can only assume the images in his art book are also true to the originals. You’ll have to be careful of fingerprint smudges of the full bleed dark/black pages though, so flip through carefully.
Book spines are something rarely mentioned in my reviews, but it stood out for me in Rebus. It's well constructed and tight, but not too tight where you'll hear excessive cracking that not only results in a loose binding, but pages that eventually fall out as the spine completely breaks away from the back. The book can be enjoyed fully open without over stressing the spine. A definite plus to be able to leisurely enjoy the art book without worrying about damaging the book or keeping it in “perfect condition.” 


Standard features have been covered, however I shouldn’t neglect to mention the red metallic gilded pages. It’s certainly a “James Jean” addition that adds some class, yet this nice touch falls a bit short. The foil rubs off easily from normal use. Any of the edges that have had contact with my fingers have already lost their glitz. It’s a shame to see such a beautiful addition lack durability. If there was just one thing I could change about Rebus, I would have LOVED to see some metallic foil used on the covers. James Jean loves his palladium foil on his fine art prints ( Coral Hound especially comes to mind) so if the book cover decoration was done in similar vein, I would have been completely ecstatic…  just a bit of wishing on my part. :)
                Rebus is James Jean’s most complete collection of artwork so it’s accurate to claim that it is THE James Jean book. He’s had numerous art book releases in the past, (notably the Process Recess series which is now in the third instalment) but these books have been more “hobby” in nature.  Most of the content in the Process Recess series covers James Jean’s private sketches and works. The first two volumes were also very limited in quantity, distribution, and long out of print. Perhaps one day I’ll find them both for my collection. ^^
                     But let’s return back to the actual content of REBUS. Both covers are magnified close ups of one of James Jean’s most recent paintings, “Hounds” from the Rebus show. It’s only fitting he used one of his newest paintings for the art book that shares the same name ^^ Flip a few pages and the reader is initially welcomes by a distinct title page, a circular kaleidoscope of bicycles envelops the title, “Rebus.” As I was flipping through and soaking in the plethora of James Jeans colouring paintings and illustrations, I started to notice something, or more correctly a lack of something. Rebus has almost no notable organization or categorization. To a casual fan or onlooker, the paintings and illustrations appear to have no order (chronological or otherwise). However, after flipping through a 2nd time much more carefully, I noticed I missed a few organizational markers.

               The first fifth of the book are paintings are from “Kindling,” James Jean’s first collection of paintings and gallery show after having left the professional illustration field to pursue his fine art ambitions. Many of these paintings are also his most famous and favourites amongst his fans (Crayon Boy anyone?) The rest of the book is divided between two sections called, “cartoon tainted symbolist narrative computer assisted surrealism 2006-2010” and, “Recess 2002-2004.” The first title appears to be particularly nonsensical, but understood simply, these two sections just display works from their respective time frames.  
          Rebus is almost completely devoid of text. Only three pieces, Procession, Willow Tree, and Rift offer a few written words to the reader as creative stories of narrative behind the pieces. Otherwise, the only words you’ll see are here are names of the art pieces, date of creation and materials used, in super minuscule, microscopic font. Not that I’m complaining though, Rebus is an art book foremost, and what I want are the paintings and illustrations taking centre stage. 

In terms of layout, most of the images are double page spreads or fully laid out on a single page. However, most of the images are not “full” bleed images. What I mean by this is, almost all of them have white borders, either because they don’t fill up the entire page or are purposely laid out to leave a half inch or so of white space to border the illustrations and paintings. Now, this would usually be less than optimal, but I didn’t even truly notice it until I had flipped through Rebus more than once. So, not only had the bits of white not bothered me, they were initially inconspicuous. Perhaps it’s because the book is so large, but this layout decision did not detract from the presentation. A minority of the images are displayed on half pages or smaller, but this again did not affect the overall quality of the layout.

Ending Notes
-  If you really just want ONE James Jean book in your collection, this is IT. It’s the “best” art book to get a sampling of most of his finished pieces. You won’t see many if any of his unfinished/sketch work or lesser known works that are present in the Process Recess series. You won’t regret getting this book
 - The really high score is intentional. Most art books are impressive, but they have one or two glaring faults that I cannot look past. However, Rebus is virtually flawless.

Final Rating
- Strongest point: Everything. James Jeans’ painting/sketches/illustrations are not only faithfully reproduced on high quality paper; the format is also large enough to do these artworks justice. On top of that, construction is impeccable. Quality, quantity, everything is above standard.
- Weakest point: The red foil gilded edges of the pages. Sure, it looks classy, but It rubs off far too easily.

9.9/10 <- Virtually Perfect 

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