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Jim Shaw

Thinking the Unthinkable

January 12–February 25, 2023
Beverly Hills

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Installation video

Installation view Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view

Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view

Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view

Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view

Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view

Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view

Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Installation view

Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Works Exhibited

Jim Shaw, Cary Grant, 2022 Oil and acrylic on muslin, 84 × 64 inches (213.4 × 162.6 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Cary Grant, 2022

Oil and acrylic on muslin, 84 × 64 inches (213.4 × 162.6 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, No Bikini Atoll, 2022 Oil and acrylic on muslin, 48 × 80 inches (121.9 × 203.2 cm)Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, No Bikini Atoll, 2022

Oil and acrylic on muslin, 48 × 80 inches (121.9 × 203.2 cm)
Artwork © Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Down By the Old Maelstrom (where I split in two), 2022 Oil and acrylic on muslin, 60 × 60 inches (152.4 × 152.4 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Down By the Old Maelstrom (where I split in two), 2022

Oil and acrylic on muslin, 60 × 60 inches (152.4 × 152.4 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse, 2023 Oil and acrylic on muslin, 80 × 57 inches (203.2 × 144.8 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Four Horsemen of The Apocalypse, 2023

Oil and acrylic on muslin, 80 × 57 inches (203.2 × 144.8 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, The Egg and I, 2022 Oil and acrylic on muslin, 80 × 57 inches (203.2 × 144.8 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, The Egg and I, 2022

Oil and acrylic on muslin, 80 × 57 inches (203.2 × 144.8 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Going for the One, 2022 Oil and acrylic on muslin, 60 × 60 inches (152.4 × 152.4 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Going for the One, 2022

Oil and acrylic on muslin, 60 × 60 inches (152.4 × 152.4 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, The Sybil Seat, 2022 Wood, metal, and acrylic paint, 78 × 24 × 24 inches (198.1 × 61 × 61 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, The Sybil Seat, 2022

Wood, metal, and acrylic paint, 78 × 24 × 24 inches (198.1 × 61 × 61 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, 2022 Foam, Aqua-Resin, fiberglass, wood, plastic, and acrylic on muslin, 46 × 60 × 16 ½ inches (116.8 × 152.4 × 41.9 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise, 2022

Foam, Aqua-Resin, fiberglass, wood, plastic, and acrylic on muslin, 46 × 60 × 16 ½ inches (116.8 × 152.4 × 41.9 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Dream Object: The Mirror of Venus, 2023 Mirrored plexiglass, 48 × 96 inches (121.9 × 243.8 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Dream Object: The Mirror of Venus, 2023

Mirrored plexiglass, 48 × 96 inches (121.9 × 243.8 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane

Jim Shaw, Mustache Cloud, 2023 ​Foam, Aqua-Resin, fiberglass, Masonic ritual hair, and acrylic, 30 × 80 × 32 inches (76.2 × 203.2 × 81.3 cm)© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane​

Jim Shaw, Mustache Cloud, 2023

​Foam, Aqua-Resin, fiberglass, Masonic ritual hair, and acrylic, 30 × 80 × 32 inches (76.2 × 203.2 × 81.3 cm)
© Jim Shaw. Photo: Jeff McLane​

About

The painting gives me the orders for what I need to do to complete it, and I have to obey.
—Jim Shaw

Gagosian is pleased to announce Thinking the Unthinkable, an exhibition of new paintings by Jim Shaw. This is his first exhibition with the gallery, which announced its representation of the artist in 2021.

In these works, Shaw reanimates mythological themes through incidents from political history and popular entertainment, outwardly disparate fields that collide here in a dreamlike mélange. The characters that populate these images represent what Catherine Taft, writing for Gagosian Quarterly in 2022, describes as “an American limbo, troubled waters into which the artist wades deeper and deeper.” Shaw elaborates on the exhibition’s iconography: “Strewn throughout are competing symbols, including the mushroom cloud, the pillar, the egg, the alphabet, and the ocean.” The exhibition’s title, which suggests both a psychedelic context and the impossibility of examining our own consciousness, is adapted from Herman Kahn’s 1962 book about nuclear war, Thinking About the Unthinkable.

Thinking the Unthinkable explores the figure of the goddess, which for Shaw intersects with Marshall McLuhan’s thesis that the development of the phonetic alphabet had a divisive societal impact, and with Leonard Shlain’s argument that the laws of written language curtailed the status of women and blunted the potential of matriarchal religion. In Cadmus Sowing the Teeth of the Slain Serpent (2022), Shaw depicts the Greek hero planting the seeds of the alphabet and begetting the warrior fathers of Thebes, while in Going for the One (2022) he casts Raquel Welch as Shiva/Kali god/dess of destruction and rebirth, demolishing the headquarters of 20th Century Fox. The latter scenario intersects with the exhibition’s other key motif: the gleeful deconstruction of Hollywood legend. “I had been researching the history of psychedelics and power,” recalls Shaw, “which led me to Cary Grant (who was, before Timothy Leary, the most vocal proponent of acid), which led me to Esther Williams and her acid trip, which reminded me of her version of the romance with Jeff Chandler.”

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