Art Who the fuck is Jim Joe?

Who the fuck is Jim Joe?

Andrea Tuzio

No one knows, and those who do (they can be counted on the fingers of one hand) are careful not to tell.
Jim Joe is unique in the art world, representing one of the greatest mysteries of street art and beyond. His name, as well as his face are not known but, what is extremely easy to notice are his tags in that of New York City.

But let’s try to get some clarity and try to answer, as much as we can, the question we started with, who the fuck is Jim Joe?

Jim Joe (not his real name of course) is a street artist who has been working primarily in New York City for more than 10 years. His works are characterized by simplicity, shrewdness, and unpredictability. The artist’s tags, always made with the use of capital letters, are a marked departure from the pompous and baroque lettering typical of the Wild Style, which had monopolized New York street art since the late 1970s, coming across as mostly raw, immediate, and unadorned.

Garbage cans, dilapidated walls, abandoned storefronts, dilapidated wooden doors, half-ruined building facades-these are the canvases Jim Joe chooses for his works.
To also try to better understand the philosophy behind the artist’s work – he seems to be originally from Montreal but there is no certainty about that aspect either – one only needs to analyze his tag “NOTHING BY JIM JOE”.
In contrast to the concept of claiming the work and the very nature of the concept of graffiti, Jim Joe rejects and deconstructs his being a maker and author, while emphasizing the ephemeral, temporary and transitory nature of street art.

In one of the very rare interviews he has given, in this case to the New York Times, Jim Joe stated that one of, if not the most important of his points of reference is Marcel Duchamp, an aspect that is clearly evident in the self-referentiality of his works.

No one knows who he is, he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but on the other hand he has worked with the most important artistic personalities on the planet: he inspired the late Virgil Abloh, with whom he was close friends; he made the cover of Drake‘s “IF YOU’RE READING THIS IT’S TOO LATE” and the Yeezus profile graphic on Kanye‘s Apple Music as well as the cover of SAINT PABLO, but not only that.

Despite appearing very little in public, of course with his face always and strictly covered, he has walked the runway for Louis Vuitton as well as collaborated with the French fashion house in creating clothes and commissioned artwork, all while remaining true to himself and anonymity.

Since Abloh’s death, Jim Joe has cut back even more on his appearances. The two were working on so many projects together, but the friend’s passing seems to have taken a toll on him.

No to the spotlight, no to fame, no to exploitation or even the use of his own image, Jim Joe is the negation of himself and, to this day, remains one of the most indecipherable unsolved mysteries in contemporary art.

Written by Andrea Tuzio
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