Jim Shaw presents new paintings in his exhibition “I Only Wanted You to Love Me” at Metro Pictures. 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. These latest works, done on sections of old theater backdrops, include elements from Disney, Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Jimi Hendrix cover art and his dreams to talk about subjects such as workaholism, the biochemical industry and 19th Century monopoly capitalism. Drawing from da Vinci’s Deluge drawings, Shaw’s painting The Deluge depicts an arm extending 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 a tugboat from the original backdrop left in the background, Grant’s hand rests on an oversize nose carved into the rock of Mt. Rushmore.
The elision of everyday and mythological realities and allegories has been emblematic of Shaw’s work for more than thirty years. He has elaborately developed characters and narratives that draw on America’s history and culture, its products and artifacts, to make three extensive 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 closely resembles Mormonism and other homespun American religions. Founded by a virgin named O who gives birth to herself, Oism is replete with its own history, objects of worship and ritual. In the ongoing Dream Drawings and Dream Objects series of drawings, paintings and sculpture, Shaw draws on his subconscious to plot out the narratives of his dreams and make surreal objects.
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 were their teachers at Cal Arts.
Shaw will sign copies of his new book The Hidden World during the opening reception. This exhibition catalogue, published by Koenig Books, follows his 2013 show at the Chalet Society in Paris, which exhibited Shaw’s collection of paraphernalia from religious orders and fraternities, conspiracy theorists and children’s encyclopedias. The Hidden World is on view at Centre Dürrenmat, Neuchatel, Switzerland through December 7.
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 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.