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Jim Shaw

Jim Shaw, Magical Thinking, 2020 Acrylic on muslin, 47 × 40 inches (119.4 © 101.6 cm)© Jim Shaw

Jim Shaw, Magical Thinking, 2020

Acrylic on muslin, 47 × 40 inches (119.4 © 101.6 cm)
© Jim Shaw

About

I want there to be things in my work that people can access, but also hidden secrets.
—Jim Shaw

Over the past thirty years, Jim Shaw has moved among painting, sculpture, and drawing, building connections between his own psyche and America’s larger political, social, and spiritual histories. He has found inspiration in comic books, pulp novels, rock albums, protest posters, and amateur paintings; his ever-growing collection of found artworks has also been the subject of several exhibitions in its own right. Often unfolding in extended narrative cycles marked by repetition and cross-reference, Shaw’s works juxtapose images of friends and family with those depicting world events, pop-cultural phenomena, and alternative realities, blending the personal, the commonplace, and the visionary. Committed to undoing any sense of aesthetic or ideological purity, Shaw has turned consistently to his own life—particularly his unconscious mind—as a source of inspiration.

Shaw was born in 1952 in Midland, Michigan, and lives and works in Los Angeles. In 1971, he enrolled at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he met artist Mike Kelley. The pair would sometimes advertise fake lectures, treating attendees to “guerilla style” performances instead. In 1974, Shaw graduated from UM with a BFA and cofounded proto-punk band Destroy All Monsters (DAM) with filmmaker Cary Loren and artist Niagara. At the time, Shaw lived with Kelley in a house they named “God’s Oasis,” which served as the band’s rehearsal space. He later contributed to an eponymous zine, Destroy All Monsters Magazine, published by Loren between 1976 and 1979, that explored the mythology of DAM still further. In 1978, Shaw earned an MFA from California Institute of the Arts; he then worked in the film industry before gaining recognition as a visual artist in the mid-1980s.

In the late 1970s, Shaw drew inspiration from William Burroughs—who would become an ongoing influence—and his “cut-up” technique of textual collage to begin Distorted Faces, a series of portrait paintings and drawings in which the features of celebrities and politicians, friends and strangers are twisted into their monstrous doubles. His first major project, My Mirage (1986–91), was a more complex undertaking. A series of 170 images rendered in a variety of styles, it traces the adventures of a middle-class white boy named Billy—Shaw’s alter ego—as he experiences sex, drugs, rock and roll, and religion in 1960s and ’70s America. Another series, Dream Drawings (1992–99), presents uncanny scenes, derived from the artist’s own dream life, in a comic-strip format, while Dream Objects (1994–) manifests selected items from these nocturnal visions as unsettling, cartoonlike sculptures.

Shaw’s ongoing project Oism, which he initiated in the late 1990s, is an artistic attempt to create and promote a functioning religion, complete with its own history and symbolism, rituals and traditions. The enterprise reflects Shaw’s extensive research into the messianic cults active in the Bible Belt and has fueled a kaleidoscopic array of artworks-cum-artifacts. Having grown to include paintings, photographs, sculptures, collages, posters, films, and musical instruments, the accumulation has become even more sophisticated than was originally envisioned, incorporating historical context to arrive at a near-encyclopedic review of abolitionist, evangelical, spiritualist, and utopian currents in American culture.

In 1999, Shaw had his first major European retrospective at the Casino Luxembourg and Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; the following year, Thrift Store Paintings opened at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, revealing entries from his frequently hilarious and horrifying collection of canvases by unknown amateur artists. In 2013, Chalet Society, Paris, presented The Hidden World, another display drawn from his personal archives that focused on “didactic art”—books, flyers, T-shirts, and other artifacts aimed at promoting various wildly eccentric belief systems. In 2015, a sprawling survey exhibition dubbed The End Is Here—its title reprising that of his MFA thesis exhibition at CalArts—opened at the New Museum, New York.

Fairs, Events & Announcements

Gagosian’s booth at FIAC 2021. Artwork, left to right: © Giuseppe Penone/2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; © Michael Heizer; © Georg Baselitz, 2021; © Pier Paolo Calzolari. Photo: Thomas Lannes

Art Fair

FIAC 2021

October 21–24, 2021, booth B23
Grand Palais Éphémère, Paris
fiac.com

Gagosian is pleased to participate in FIAC 2021 with a presentation of painting, sculpture, and works on paper by gallery artists. The booth will feature works by Georg Baselitz, Edmund de Waal, Helen Frankenthaler, Theaster Gates, Katharina Grosse, Simon Hantaï, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Steven Parrino, Auguste Rodin, Sterling RubySetsukoJim Shawand Cy Twombly, among others. A selection of the works will also appear on gagosian.com and in FIAC’s Online Viewing Room.

To receive a pdf with detailed information on the works, please contact the gallery at inquire@gagosian.com. To attend the fair, purchase tickets at fiac.com.

Gagosian’s booth at FIAC 2021. Artwork, left to right: © Giuseppe Penone/2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris; © Michael Heizer; © Georg Baselitz, 2021; © Pier Paolo Calzolari. Photo: Thomas Lannes

Still from They Live (1988), directed by John Carpenter

Screening

Jim Shaw Selects

October 12–27, 2021
Metrograph, New York
metrograph.com

Jim Shaw is presenting a selection of conspiracy-minded cinema at Metrograph in New York, inaugurating a new artist-programmer-in-residence series copresented by Gagosian and Metrograph in the theater and online. Jim Shaw Selects will feature six films that kept the artist uneasy company during the paranoiac pandemic time. To attend a screening, purchase tickets at metrograph.com.

Still from They Live (1988), directed by John Carpenter

Jim Shaw. Photo: LeeAnn Nickels

New Representation

Jim Shaw

Gagosian is pleased to announce the representation of Jim Shaw. Since the 1970s, Shaw has mined the dreams and conflicted realities of American culture, finding inspiration in comic books, pulp novels, rock albums, protest posters, and thrift store paintings. Blending the personal, the commonplace, and the uncanny, Shaw’s works frequently place in dialogue images of friends and family with world events, pop culture, and alternate realities, often unfolding in long-term narrative cycles.

Download the full press release (pdf)

Jim Shaw. Photo: LeeAnn Nickels