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b. 1952, USA

Jim Shaw Biography

Seemingly, Jim Shaw's imagination appears to know no bounds. He does not profess one single style or media, instead choosing to operate in naturalistic or Surrealist mode to produce paintings, photographs, sculptures, film, collages, posters, comic strips and installation. While the sources of his inspiration also seem limitless, certain patterns can be identified: comic books, rock albums, current and historical events, art history and fragments from his personal life as well as his friends and families'; and last but not least, the underbelly of American culture and history: consumerism, conspiracy theories, cults and homespun religions. For Shaw, objects and aspects of everyday life aptly reflect the shifting social and political values of American society. His works often reference on each other, engaged in a larger narrative that unfolds over a long period of time.

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The investigation of American culture and history has become emblematic of Shaw's works. My Mirage (1986-91), his first major project and a series of 170 images, follows the story of a white middle-class male named Billy as he experiences life in America of the 1960s and 1970s. Sex and drugs are among the few thing Billy encounters, as is rock n' roll, before he falls to cult membership and rises again with the aid of organised religion. On a more personal scale, My Mirage draws on Shaw and his own friends' upbringing. In works such as King Cotton (2015), on the other hand, Shaw's insights are more historical and socio-political. The green mechanical elf spins gold from the cotton giant, a never-ending act that alludes to the repetition of history and questions the morality of pursuit for power and wealth.

In 2002, the Swiss Institute in New York presented The Goodman Image File and Study, which purported to show the works of the O-ist painter Adam O. Goodman. O-ism, according to the exhibition, was an American religion whose origins in the 1840s coincided with the spread of Mormonism. Both O-ism and Goodman were, on the contrary, Shaw's creation. Conceived as a satire of religious fanaticism, Shaw originally intended to employ O-ism to scrutinise the processes necessary in the invention and propagation of a religion. The project has, however, since become larger and more sophisticated–Shaw now considers the influences of its historical context, ranging from spiritualism, feminism, abolitionism and especially utopian communities across America. Subsequently, works such as The Whole: A Study in Oist Integrated Movement (2009), which depicts one of the rituals Shaw has created for his fictive religion, have materialised.

Shaw's work is diverse in media as well as in style. Dream Drawings (1992-1999) series, one of his iconic works, features pencil on paper drawings that feature surreal and yet naturalistic scenes in the style of comic stripes. In a 2015 interview with Ocula, Shaw explained that the uncanny drawings began with his own dreams and their 'occult way of telling ... in a satirical way or a symbolic way with things that are formally similar but not exactly the same'. Also operating in the comic book style is 'Blake/Boring series, ongoing since 2011, which combines the surreal, fantasy world of the 18th century poet and artist William Blake and the superhero comic style of Wayne Boring from the 1950s. Dream Object (1994-present) series ventures into another dimension altogether, often resulting in cartoonlike sculptures and images that border on grotesque.

Living in Los Angeles since his twenties, Shaw belongs to the generation of visionary artists who graduated from the California Institute of the Arts in the 1970s. He was particularly close with Mike Kelley, a fellow alumni of the University of Michigan and with whom he moved to Southern California. Upon completing his studies, Shaw worked in the film industry before gaining recognition in the mid-1980s. Since then, he has exhibited internationally including the US, UK, Europe and Hong Kong. In 2003, his work was included in The Encyclopedic Palace at the 55th Venice Biennale. The End is Here, a major retrospective of Shaw's work and his first comprehensive museum show in New York, was organised by New Museum in 2015.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2017

Exhibition view: Jim Shaw, Hope Against Hope, Simon Lee Gallery, London (20 October 2020–16 January 2021). Courtesy the artist and Simon Lee Gallery. Photo: Ben Westoby.

Jim Shaw Featured Artworks

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The Red Shoes by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawThe Red Shoes, 2020Acrylic on muslin
203.2 x 94 x 4.4 cm
Simon Lee Gallery Contact Gallery
The Adoration by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawThe Adoration, 2020Acrylic on muslin
167.6 x 121.9 x 4.4 cm
Simon Lee Gallery Contact Gallery
Lincoln/Moloch by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawLincoln/Moloch, 2020Acrylic on muslin
73.7 x 96.5 cm
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Haunted House by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawHaunted House, 2016Acrylic on muslin
121.9 x 121.9 cm
Metro Pictures Contact Gallery
Blake/Boring by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawBlake/Boring, 2011Ink on paper
22.9 x 30.5 cm
Simon Lee Gallery Contact Gallery
The Ascension of George Washington by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawThe Ascension of George Washington, 2017Acrylic on muslin
48 x 75 x 2 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
The Thing Is by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawThe Thing Is, 2016Acrylic on muslin
24 x 48 inches
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery
Apophenia (A Tall Drink of Water) by Jim Shaw contemporary artwork
Jim ShawApophenia (A Tall Drink of Water), 2016Pencil on paper
56.99 x 76.52 cm
Blum & Poe Contact Gallery

Jim Shaw Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Jim Shaw, Hope Against Hope at Simon Lee Gallery, London
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20 October 2020–16 January 2021 Jim Shaw Hope Against Hope Simon Lee Gallery, LondonLondon
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, 5,471 miles at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles
21 July–15 August 2020 Group Exhibition 5,471 miles Blum & Poe, Los AngelesLos Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Artist in Focus: Jim Shaw, On Man Machines at Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong
7–26 July 2020 Artist in Focus: Jim Shaw On Man Machines Simon Lee GalleryOnline Only

Jim Shaw Represented By

Blum & Poe contemporary art gallery in Tokyo, Japan Blum & Poe Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo
Metro Pictures contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Metro Pictures New York
Simon Lee Gallery contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Simon Lee Gallery Hong Kong, London, New York

Jim Shaw In Ocula Magazine

Jim Shaw Ocula Conversation Jim Shaw By Brienne Walsh, New York

Jim Shaw: The End Is Here (7 October 2015–10 January 2016), the first New York survey show of Los Angeles-based artist Jim Shaw’s work, reads like a cabinet of curiosities as much as it does an exhibition. Taking up three floors of the New Museum, the show consists not only of paintings, sculptures, videos, drawings and installations...

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Jim Shaw Ocula Conversation Jim Shaw By Laura Thomson, Hong Kong

The practice of American artist Jim Shaw spans a wide range of both artistic media and visual imagery. Part of a ground-breaking group that graduated from CalArts in the late 1970’s including Mike Kelley and Tony Oursler, Shaw has mined art history, cinema, religion, history, current affairs and the detritus of American culture to find...

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Jim Shaw In Related Press

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Connecting the Dots in the Met Breuer’s Show About Conspiracy Theories Related Press Connecting the Dots in the Met Breuer’s Show About Conspiracy Theories 15 October 2018, Hyperallergic

It will likely take me months to digest all the lessons I've learned from The Met Breuer's newest exhibition, Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy, so it's a good thing that the show stays open through January.

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Everything is connected: new exhibition on art and conspiracy Related Press Everything is connected: new exhibition on art and conspiracy 17 September 2018, The Guardian

In 1974, Black Panthers artist Emory Douglas created a portrait of Gerald Ford, America's 38th president, being pulled by puppet strings held by giant corporations. A speech bubble had Ford saying: 'I Gerald Ford am the 38th puppet of the United States.'

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L.A. habitat: Jim Shaw Related Press L.A. habitat: Jim Shaw 21 April 2016, ARTNews

As an artist, Jim Shaw is difficult to classify. Shaw’s practice includes painting, drawing, and sculpture as well as showing his prolific and ever-growing collection of found objects. (His 1991 show Thrift Store Paintings  was recently restaged for his recent New Museum survey in New York, The End Is Here.) In 1976 Shaw moved to...

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Jim Shaw celebrates the fabric and weirdness of America at New Museum Related Press Jim Shaw celebrates the fabric and weirdness of America at New Museum 9 December 2015, The LA Times

Jim Shaw is the kind of artist who likes to collect. He started as a kid, with comic books and a library of Monsters magazine. As a teen, he progressed to records, where he refined his taste for the bizarre. One early score was "You're My Girl," a compilation of mood music and poetry delivered morosely by "Dragnet" star Jack...

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