j. bilhan is a product of South Texas. That particular coastal region, its thunderous rain storms, and its history with his Mexican and Afro ancestors the is greatest influence on his life and work.

Primarily self-taught and anti-disciplinary by nature, bilhan began working as a child using naïve methods and handcraft. Today, his practice spans image-making, design, sculpture, written and spoken word, social analysis and theory, blockchain, sound, and poetic methods.

After living in Paris, New York, Berlin, and Los Angeles, bilhan is now in Lisbon with his studio focused on: representations of the queer body, environmentalism, promoting artisan & craft culture, responding to early and current imperialist phenomena, and activating public spaces as art (essentially rooted in but divergent to “street-art”)

     My practice is a philosophy based on three principles: beauty, poetry, and abolitionism. With this, I form constructive behaviors that generate eternal cultural revolution while simultaneously preserving traditional practices. Impressions of flowing water, or "the river of life", are my Dao; Yet as Lao Tsu wrote, the Dao that can be named is not the eternal Dao.


Regarding beauty, I propose that if artists create work as representations of the true, natural, eternal, sublime, sacred, divine, or poetic, we push life towards a harmonious reality. Between those extremes lies a banality and serenity which is also beautiful. As a result, those who experience this work align their consciousness more so with reality, thus reducing problems like anxiety, neurosis, and other ailments of the conscious and subconscious mind. Fellow artist Pierre Liebaert summarized this idea well when we told me that he and I work "in service of the divine."


Poetry is my second principle—that is: spatial, visual, textural, and linguistic poetry rooted in primitive beauty—in simple terms: nature. One of my yet unpublished works which employs this and the previous principle is my project called Dao 25:25. Both sacred, grotesque and poetic, I vandalize bibles with my handwritten words. I also harness this principle through the practice of mending old garments or building anew from salvaged textiles.


Lastly, with the abolitionist principle, my convictions are that we must stop all forms of self-inflicted ecological destruction, imperialism, colonialism, war, weapons manufacturing, fanaticism, mass incarceration, austerity politics, apartheid, oppression, performative humanitarianism, hierarchical business practices, borders, capitalist celebrity-icon culture, obscene wealth gaps, and most of all, greed.

It would seem that the only means of a successful abolitionist is to positively change one's behavior while, as a side effect, influencing others to do the same. As Octavia Butler wrote, "prodigy is, at its essence, persistent, positive obsession."


In the end, I ponder strategies for peace. How would we then spend our lives once our senseless disaster-politics had ended? Seemingly idealistic within todays geopolitical spectrum, I envision the possibility of a world without poverty, hatred, despair, and violence that still allows for the generative autonomy of the individual.


In straddling these three principles, I have made my life very difficult, but I enjoy immensely this struggle.

     For collaborations, brief or winded, I have included these notes on my process:


Most projects, from conception to delivery, require a minimum of one month. During this time, I prefer high levels of communication. It's important that you inform me of your desired outcome as this will aid in shaping the concept.


Photography and writing, in particular, are emotionally involved processes for me, and I prefer to establish harmony between the visions and philosophy of my collaborators, partners, and clients. So to begin, we must engage in several conversations. From there, we can shape the story, time, place, atmosphere and essence.


In photography, my preferred method is to plan scenarios, then "live" in those scenarios while carrying my Ricoh GR-III pocket camera. During these times, I capture photos as they appear to me rather than attempt to force an image. Our goal in these moments should be to forget that we are “on set.”


Design and sculpture are much less emotionally less involved for me and rather mechanical. Any design project—be it web, UX, print, spatial, object—will require at least one month of research and development. Execution times vary depending on deliverables.

Exhibitions

2022
Poetry, Design — Yin Xiao "Yiji, Remnants" Record
Photo — “Four Meters Square” Lisboa Portugal, curated by João Vilela Geraldo

2021
Photo — “Carriers: The Body as a Site of Danger and Desire,” Blaffer Museum, Houston, Texas. Curated by Steven Matijcio and Tyler Blackwell
Photo — “9”, CivicTV & FotoFest Biennial, Sawyer Yards, Houston, Texas. Curated by Terry Suprean

2019
Curation, Photo — “In Review: Everyone at Blaffer,” Blaffer Museum, Houston, Texas. Co-Curator Mich Stevenson
Photo — “Body A,” Flats Presents, Houston. Curated by Jessie
Painting — “Labyrinth of Language,” Werkartz, Los Angeles, California
Curation, Photo — “There Is Enough For Everyone,” Knockout Factory Warehouse, Houston. Co-curator Mich Stevenson

Press & Talks

2021
Web — "j. bilhan — Life As a Spectacle" Interview by Christina Rouse
Web — “Define Nomadic Space: Arts Organizing, Pandemic, and Virtual Experience”
Discussion hosted by Common Field
Web — “The Sexuality Question,” Discussion hosted by Open MFA.

2020
Print — Peter Johnson “A book of stories” Captured 52, Season 5 Catalog
Print, Web — Bill Arning, “Embracing Intergenerational Love” OutSmart Magazine, September Issue,  p. 56-58
Print — Anaïs Viand, et al. “Fish Eye Photo Review 2020-21,” Fish Eye Magazine, p. 99
Web — Valentina Di Lescia “Live Blogging Discussions on Nomadic Arts Organizing and
How to Address Trauma,” Hyperallergic Magazine
Web — Loren Olson MD “Age Differences in Gay Couples,” Psychology Today

2019
Radio — Interview by DJ Kool Emdee, Afrotronik Radio, KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston
Web — Sol Peña. “There is Enough for Everyone, Second Ward Art Show”, Byline Houston
Web — Lou Tsatsas: “Éloge du corps humain”, Fisheye Magazine
Web — Rosie Flanagan “J. A. Bilhan’s Personal Search For Beauty And The Sublime,” Ignant

2018
Print — Chris Behroozian, “God is Gay” Volume 03
Print — Jake Eshelman. “Manual,” Side Project Skateboards, 1st Edition, p. 96-106.

2017
Print — Art Review Magazine, Mark Bradford Portrait. Cover Photograph, May Issue

2016
Print — Double Dot Magazine, Volume 08, p. 54-67
Print — “Dizziness of Youth”, Staple Magazine, Issue 01, cover & p. 114-133