Jim Shaw: Self-Pop-Portrait

Untitled (Self Portrait Green), 2010, Oil on plywood

“Jim Shaw is the kind of artist who willfully seeks out the devil in the details, not only on the formal level—in meticulously executed drawings, paintings, sculpture and videos—but also through an exacting process that reveals a wickedly sharp attention to cultural minutia. Whether culling from dreams, music tropes, cult philosophy, last century cast-offs or online auction databases, the artist demonstrates a keen understanding of the arcane resonance of everyday things. By redefining common objects and images into complex (and delightfully improbable) situations, Shaw proposes new points of entry into an alternate American universe, one that resembles past and present realities while remaining just slightly off.”[1]

In Shaw’s Untitled (Self Portrait in Green) proudly owned by the Adrastus Collection, we witness this popular and malleable medium of photography defining a series of moments of American history. Shaw proposes a direct reference to the recognizable and distinguished styled pop art of Andy Warhol, who sought to pinpoint not only iconic figures but also moments in time. He depicts an image of himself posed with a peculiar face and emphasized in a bright shade of green. Finding inspiration for his artworks in comic books, pulp novels, rock albums, protest posters and thrift store paintings, Jim Shaw’s work frequently starts a dialogue with pop culture and alternative realities. Therefore, the work can lead to content systems of cross-references and repartitions, which rework similar symbols and motifs, allowing a story-like thread to be perceived.[2]

The artist initiated what he called the Oism project in the late 1990s, where he explores a fictional religion through media, including video installations (recalling both Busby Berkeley musicals and 1980s aerobics videos) and found paintings in the “Oist style.”[3] Shaw compiled his research with compelling historical oddities, coincidences, and pretenses, all of which inform his fictional religion to form a richly layered practice. Taking liberally from the Art History Masters of Moreover, Shaw seems interested in the way such a dogma in religions such as Mormonism and Christian Science might spiral out of control, and his depictions of this might become earnest and absurd. According to the curator Catherine Taft, “Oism has served as the nexus for projects including an all-male secret rite, elaborately choreographed cinematic dance sequences, an instructional exercise video, an aspirational progressive rock band, and a series of comic books. This last endeavor presently occupies much of the artist’s time, as Shaw diligently works on a storyline that, existing somewhere between literary masterpiece and popular adolescent entertainment, might eventually comprise an Oist overview.”[4]

Jim was born in 1952 in Midland, Michigan. He received his BFA from University of Michigan in 1974 and his MFA from California Institute of the Arts in 1978. Jim Shaw first came to the art world’s attention in the 1980s with a series called My Mirage, exploring the tacky inner thoughts of a teenager named Billy. His preoccupation seems to be with that which is inferior and which some would call pornographic. From that time, he has done myriads of works including drawings, sculptures, prints and photographs that combine Pop-Art, Neo-Expressionism, Realism, and Surrealism. Recent solo shows include The Family Romance, Metro Pictures, New York, NY (2019), Jim Shaw, Simon Lee Gallery, Hong Kong; Jim Shaw: Drawings, Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK Michigan Stories: Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, The Broad Art Museum at MSU, Michigan, MI (20018); Jim Shaw/Mike Kelley, The Broad Art Museum at MSU, Michigan, MI Jim Shaw, Metro Pictures, New York, NY Jim Shaw, Blum and Poe, Los Angeles, CA Jim Shaw, Massimo de Carlo, Milan, Italy Jim Shaw: The Wig Museum, Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA (2017). Jim Shaw has also exhibited at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2013); Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2010-2011); New Museum, New York (2010); Kunstmuseum, Luzern (2008); among several other institutions. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

[1] Taft, C., 2020. Profession: Dilettanteinterview With Jim Shaw – Features – Metropolis M. [online] Metropolism.com. Available at: <https://www.metropolism.com/en/features/23314_profession_dilettante> [Accessed 31 August 2020].

[2] “Jim Shaw”. Simon Lee, 2020, https://www.simonleegallery.com/artists/jim-shaw/.

[3] Taft, Catherine. “Profession: Dilettante interview With Jim Shaw – Features – Metropolis M”. Metropolism.Com, 2020, https://www.metropolism.com/en/features/23314_profession_dilettante.

[4] Ibid.