Jim Shaw: I Only Wanted You to Love Me at Metro Pictures, New York, from September 12 to October 25, 2014
One of the most influential artists of his generation, Shaw ardently researches a vast spectrum of subjects—from comic books he has accumulated since childhood to mythology—and dizzyingly incorporates them into his drawings, paintings, sculpture and videos. Among these latest works done on old theater backdrops are paintings of the Seven Dwarves hauling away the heads of imposing statues of the seven deadly sins that line an old subway tunnel and in another work a tank with the hair of Farah Fawcett rolls through, as Shaw describes, the “Deco-Babylonian” wall of a Los Angeles outlet mall. In a triptych he brings together several metaphors and elements from Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle and Jimi Hendrix’s song The Burning of the Midnight Lamp. In one panel of the painting, for example, Shaw bases water nymphs, the Rhinemaiden from Wagner’s opera, on the women on the cover of the British release of Hendrix’s album “Electric Ladyland.” In The Deluge an arm extends from a crashing wave and from this “hand of God,” as Shaw refers to it, an enraptured Eva Marie Saint and heroic-looking Cary Grant emerge. With an old-time tugboat from the original backdrop left in the background, Grant’s hand rests on an oversize nose carved into the rock of Mt. Rushmore.
For more than thirty years Shaw has elaborately developed characters and narratives that draw on America’s history and culture, its products and artifacts, to make two ongoing bodies of work. My Mirage tells the story of Billy, a blond-haired, blue-eyed suburban youth born in the 1950s who delves into a world of psychedelia during his college years and, after a bad acid trip, joins a pagan sect before finally becoming a Christian Fundamentalist. Shaw’s intricate pseudo-religion Oism, founded by a virgin named O who gives birth to herself, resembles Mormonism and other homespun American religions. Replete with its own history, objects of worship and rituals, Oism is emblematic of the elision of everyday and mythological realities and allegories that pervade Shaw’s distinctive work.
Jim Shaw attended the California Institute of the Arts in the late 1970s. Graduating with artists that included Mike Kelley, John Miller and Tony Oursler, the group became known for their reaction against the material restrictions adhered to by the conceptual artists of the 70s, many of whom where their teachers at Cal Arts.
An exhibition of Shaw’s work opens at Mass MoCA in spring 2015. Past one-person exhibitions include Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam; CAPC, Musee de’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux; MoMA PS1, New York; Magasin, Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble; ICA, London; and Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva. His collection of quirky objects and paintings were recently exhibited at the Chalet Society in Paris. His work has been in group shows at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Los Angeles County Museum; New Museum, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He participated in the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013.
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