Jean Jullien’s new book charmingly depicts the ironies of contemporary culture.
Jean Jullien grew up mesmerized by cartoons. He loved their playfulness, and their unabashed amplification of the quirkiest aspects of everyday life. Now an illustrator himself, Jullien has channeled his sharp wit into his new book, Modern Life.
Spend as much time as Jullien does closely observing contemporary humanity, and you’re bound to get a bit jaded. In the introduction to Modern Life, Jullien writes: “I am something of a curmudgeon, and a lot of things bug me. But rather than ranting constantly and becoming an unpleasant character to be around, I try to use my work to turn these things into comedy.”
“These things,” in Modern Life, often means technology. Jullien draws a man slouched against an old red telephone booth, checking his smartphone. An image of a guy wide awake in bed, mesmerized by the glowing screen of his tablet, is captioned “never alone.”
But Jullien also captures people’s desire to connect without the help of a USB cable. Those attempts aren’t always successful. In one drawing, Jullien illustrates a man in one bus tentatively, hopefully, waving at a man in another bus, who’s giving him the finger. As the actor and writer Jesse Eisenberg points out in the book’s introduction, it’s hard not to empathize with the image: all of us have probably, at some point in our lives, been both of those guys.
In his collection of around 130 simple, hilarious cartoons, Jullien imagines people struggling to stay afloat in a society changing almost too rapidly to keep up with. He depicts the existential dread of being one step behind the latest fashion trends; he draws a person lost in a sea of social media followers. Jullien’s scenes are sometimes heartwarming and often startling, but they’re never anything other than true.
Modern Life, $35 from Amazon
H/t Cool Hunting