LEVEL 2, GALLERY 16
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, BORN 1952
LIVES AND WORKS IN LOS ANGELES
Since the 1970s, Jim Shaw has mined the detritus of American culture, finding inspiration for his artworks in comic books, pulp novels, rock albums, protest posters, thrift store paintings and advertisements. The artist began creating a series of mural works around 2004, using found theatrical backdrops on which he painted over the surfaces. Consumed by the build-up to the 2004 presidential elections, he created a body of work later grouped together as a solo exhibition entitled Left Behind (CAPC Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, 2010). These vast paintings featured multilayered references to esoterica, conspiracy theory, trash culture, and his own fictional religion: Oism. These works expressed his unease with the social and ideological dominance of neo-conservativism, consumerism, and the Christian right in America.
Capitol viscera appliances mural 2011 is an oneiric vision depicting the obliteration of Capitol Hill, the seat of the US Government, by an eruption of molten lava overlaid with a floating matrix of domestic appliances, seemingly from the 1950s. The renderings of these appliances epitomise a golden age of American domesticity and consumerism. The tendrils and trunk of the ‘mushroom cloud’ resemble a sinewy Banyan tree, a frequent motif within Shaw’s work as the Oist ‘tree of life’.
Jim Shaw received his BFA from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1974, before studying at the California Institute of the Arts, where he graduated with an MFA in 1978. He is considered one of the key protagonists in an influential generation of the USA’s West Coast artists. Shaw has been the subject of a major retrospective, Jim Shaw: The End is Near, at the New Museum in New York (2015), as well as participating in The Encyclopedic Palace, Venice Biennale, 2013. He is well known as a purveyor of the mythical narratives of 20th century America, especially the visual culture produced on its fringes, via religions, cults, conspiracy theorists, non-professional hobbyist artists, protest movements and ‘lower’ forms of pop culture. In the late 1990s Shaw created a fictive 19th century religion called Oism, with a mythological framework he continues to elaborate in his works today.
Generously supported by NGV Foundation Patrons.