The practice of American artist Jim Shaw (b. 1952, Midland, Michigan) spans a wide range of artistic media and visual imagery. Since the 1970s, 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 – his ever-growing collection of found artworks has been the subject of its own exhibition on several occasions – and advertisements. At the same time, Shaw has consistently turned to his own life and, in particular, his unconscious, as a source of artistic creativity. Providing a blend of the personal, the commonplace and the uncanny, Shaw’s works frequently place in dialogue images of friends and family members with world events, pop culture and alternate realities. Often unfolding in long-term, narrative cycles, the works contains systems of cross-references and repetitions, which rework similar symbols and motifs, allowing a story-like thread to be perceived.
Shaw’s ongoing project Oism contains a narrative core and ironically challenges the norms of an artwork. Marking Shaw’s attempt to create a functioning religion, complete with its own history, totems and traditions, Oism is drawn from profound and far-reaching research initiated in the early 1990s into the history of American religious practice and finds inspiration in the messianic cults active in America’s Bible belt. The creation and study of Oism has fuelled a wide range of artworks-cum-artefacts, and includes, amongst others, paintings, photographs, sculptures, collages, posters, films and musical instruments.
Jim Shaw: Drawings
On show as part of its ‘Viewing Room’ programme, Simon Lee Gallery presents a concise selection of drawings by Los Angeles-based artist Jim Shaw. The remarkable variation in scale and visual narrative on display highlights a crucially important part of the artist’s oeuvre, and the works on view trace defining elements in his ongoing artistic practice with humour, skill and insight. Whether as preparatory studies or as works in their own right, these monochromatic works on paper offer an intimate sense of the artist’s creative and conceptual process that mines the collective subconscious of American culture through a mix of the familiar and the absurd.