John John Jesse (b. 1969)
Punk rocker, and former Catholic school boy, John John Jesse’s work reflects the gravitation and trials of those two opposites. Born in New York City's then crime ridden and drug infested Lower East Side, John John 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, Canada and Europe in the late 80's and early 90's, and released LPs and various 7" singles. Though since disbanded in 1992, to this day they still maintain a huge loyal following, and have influenced the next generation of the political punk rock 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 like Agnostic Front, Destroy, and the Squat or Rot record label, as well as Nausea while squatting in the Lower East Side. Those works can now be seen in the follow up book by Feral House “Fucked Up and Photocopied” called “Punk Is Dead Is Everything” which exhibits a number of John John’s punk and hardcore flyer works as well as him being a contributing writer. With his now widely collected paintings, we get glimpses of behind the scenes participation with peers and what the oppressed youth stumbles into. He declares his works as his autobiography narrated through paintings rather than with words. A true voice of his punk rock generation, John John gives us more of the anarchy of youth. A portrayal of class war struggle, street anarchism, and his past teenage destructive punk rock lifestyle of heroin addiction, alcoholism, love, heartbreak, crime, teen suicide and triumph. It is 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 finished in various antique ornate Baroque and Victorian lavish gold frames. The models delineation, facial expressions, their clothing and inanimate objects, all reflect the artist's pronounced attitude of familiar experiences. Vivid color, built up in translucent layers of graphite, ink and gouache, erupts alongside mists of spray paint. With increasing volume, portraits and surreal landscapes of young rebellious punk girls and boys, or elaborate dream-like narratives of demons and angst amidst inner & outer destructive natures, and experimentation with sexual discoveries (but he adamantly declares it not as erotica). 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, angst 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.