James Jankowiak (b. 1969) is a Chicago born artist whose work engages audiences through a unique multi-layered approach. His paintings and installations are complex works that reflect a definitive play on color, ritual and repetition, and light. Additionally, his collaborative works with Chicago youth gives Jankowiak's work a distinctive character and place in today's contemporary art community.
Jankowiak's approach resides in a larger tradition of visual, social, and teaching arts that defines Chicago as an artistic community.
"I was raised in a devout Catholic family and spent a lot of time as a bored kid at mass staring at church architecture, at the obsessive use of geometry and pattern, fascinated with the symbolism and coded language of simple form and color. We had a great organist who played mostly classical music, and his version of Ave Maria was so heartfelt I'd get teary eyed at times. The combination of the music and the visuals really did transport me to a blissful place, and those experiences have managed to still hold sway with me to this day, in spite of my agnostic tendencies.
I try to hit on some kind of metaphysical resolution in my art making … whether it be the way the retina reacts to the way the color is applied, or how a dynamically rhythmic structure could suggest how sound might look. There are a lot of parallels between the measured framework of my painting process and music. When I hear great music, no matter how great the song is, there's always a favorite part of a song, that five second interlude that you turn up extra loud. Great music makes the hair on my arms stand straight...There's a real moment of physical ecstasy involved.
Painting affords the opportunity to search for the sublime in a different way, the rarity of attaining it is what I feel keeps all of us painters in constant conversation with each other, picking up visual clues from our peers throughout art history and continuing the exploration."
James' work has been exhibited widely throughout the city, including the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, The Arts Incubator, Western Exhibitions, Johalla Projects, and the Roger Brown Study Collection, and has shown internationally in the Netherlands. He has also been commissioned to create public artworks celebrating the Chicago White Sox' 100th Anniversary in 2000-2001.Recently he was commissioned to create the permanent public entrance design for the Illinois Holocaust Museum's Youth Museum, and last year he was commissioned by the Chicago Transit Authority to create the artwork, "Consolation of Color", for the new Union Station Transit Center.
James has taught many hundreds of Chicago students since 2001, they have completed several public, permanent artworks and attended art making residencies throughout the entire Chicago Public School system.