Dec 5th '18
Jim Joe is the progenitor of a famous tag that can currently be seen all around New York City. His marks take on many styles, but can be easily spotted by his signature use of all-caps. Many of his tags take the form of circuitous verses, like, “NOT LONG IS HOW LONG THIS TAG TOOK ME,” or, “DOGS PAINT IN THEIR HEADS.” Whereas other writings act as of fake advertisements, like his famous, “1-800-JIM-JOE / GOT ISSUES?” But often his marks just read, “JIM JOE.” Marked by its distinctive wit and simplicity, Jim Joe’s work eschews the baroque and bubbly lettering of the Wild Style brand of graffiti practice that has been prevalent in the city since the 1970s. He also does not limit himself to traditional graffiti surfaces. Jim Joe tags can be found on discarded couches, trash cans, doors, and all types of refuse. In an email interview with the New York Times, Jim Joe cited the French artist Marcel Duchamp as one of his primary influences. A strong connection to Duchamp can be seen in the self-referential aspects of his work.
Much of Jim Joe’s practice tampers with notions of authorship and the nature of his own medium as a graffitist. A classic example of this was his tag, “NOTHING BY JIM JOE,” which simultaneously points to the ephemeral nature of street art and deconstructs his own position as the creator of said art. While he has earned many followers and Internet devotees, who archive photographs of his work, Jim Joe has still managed to stay out of the public eye. And, in doing so, he has maintained an airtight aura of mystery. One of the only things known about Jim Joe as a person is that he allegedly hails from Montreal. We reached out to Jim Joe via email to find out more about his process and the ideas behind his work. After a brief back-and-forth, what we received in return was slew of responses written in a style similar to his graffiti work. In order to preserve what he sent to us as an extension of his art, we have chosen to leave what he wrote in its unedited, original form.
colin tunstall: I’ve been following your work for about four or five years now, but I’m not sure how you got started.
jim joe: STARTED / HAVE EXISTED FOR MAYBE 7 YEARS / ONE DAY LEADS INTO THE NEXT
ct: Is this process addictive for you?
jj: IT IS THE ADDICTION
ct: Are tools important to you?
jj: AN ABUNDANCE OF OPTIONS MIGHT DO YOU NO FAVORS / THE RIGHT TOOLS CAN UNLOCK ANY THING / MORE OR LESS MORE IS LESS
ct: People always have an opinion. Does your process need an opinion?
jj: ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER / INHALE EXHALE
ct: JJ exists in mark-making. Does this mean you want no association with your work? Is it in any way a reflection of you?
jj: THIS WORD REPRESENTS AN IDEA / AN IDEA THAT IS REPEATED MANY TIMES / THE IDEA BELONGS 2 SOME ONE / BUT EVERY PERSON ALSO AS WELL
ct: Quantity or quality?
jj: NOT YET
ct: After 7 years, what’s changed for JJ?
jj: POOR VISION / BAD BREATH
ct: I agree that you always have to move forward, but has anything that anyone has said resulted in a reaction from you?
jj: TRASH IS A BIG ENCOURAGEMENT
ct: What does “JIM JOE WOMP” mean? It doesn’t have to mean anything, I’m just curious.
jj: WOMP IS THE FRIEND / AS OPPOSED 2 THE ENEMY
ct: What’s most important to you?
jj: A ENDURANCE
ct: Is language part of the instrument? Parles tu français?
jj: LANGUAGE IS AN INSTRUMENT / FRANÇAIS EST UNE LANGUE / LETTERS ARE THE FAMILY
ct: And when you’re being noticed in the act?
jj: WALK AND SPIT
ct: What do you think of Pharcyde?
ct: Have you seen blogs that have documented your work? They’re quite extensive, almost never-ending. Does that feel rewarding?
jj: IT IS BOTH SWORD AND STONE / THE BEST THAT CAN BE DONE / IS NOTHING AT ALL
ct: What is YOUNG MAN?
ct: Twitter is a medium for words similar to what you write around the city.
jj: TWITTER IS A SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE
ct: The act of writing in public–forcing the public to see–is much different. Every stroke, font choice and location is almost a completely different response.
jj: EACH MOMENT BELONGS TO ITSELF / DEALING WITH ONE AT A TIME / AND ALWAYS AGAIN
ct: Does a date attached to your work mean anything?
jj: SOME YEARS ARE MORE IMPORTANT / DATES MEAN EVERYTHING / HOW CAN U SAY THIS / YY MM DD
ct: Are you a minimalist in saying more is less?
jj: MAXIMALISM BY WAY OF WATER
ct: Do things change if no one cares?
jj: HOW CAN NO ONE CARE / PEOPLE ARE MAD EVERY DAY / OTHERS SING IN THE STREET
jj: SORRY 2 DISAPPEAR IT WAS A REALITY■