The Man Machine paintings more-or-less began with my interest in hair as a source of power. I had done a couple of large murals, one involving 1950s beehives and the other involving men’s facial hair of the 1890s both of which were contemporary versions of the wig that denoted power in the French and English past, and still does in England – it is the sign of a judge, for instance. Eventually I started doing these paintings of pompous men from the 1890s with their facial hair and replaced their faces with things like machines – the Man Machine.
The Man Machine is also like the big scary thing in the movie 'Metropolis', and I personally believe we are becoming that Man Machine as we become more and more embedded with our iPhones and our computers – so the scary thing has kind of come to pass.
At the same time, the paintings are also this image of masculine power from the past, which clings on to its power in the present. The Man Machine paintings began with an installation at Frieze London in 2018, and they were in a sense meant to set the stage in that the entire room was covered with this gilded wall paper, which was redolent of the Victorian past, and that wall paper was made out of abstractions derived from caricatures I had drawn of Donald Trump, who again uses his hair as a form of power.
In most recent Man Machine pieces, one features a former president - I think Garfield - and his face has been replaced by a 1950s appliance with a cut-away view, a blender for making cakes and such. Another is a sort-of pious religious man and I had to include the man’s eye or you would just not have seen the piousness of his look. The third one is a very obese man and unfortunately his head is so small in reality that the large machine that replaces his head makes him seem less obese, but he is still a sprawling factory of a man.
Jim Shaw was born in 1952, Midland, MI and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. Recent solo exhibitions include Michigan Stories: Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw, The Broad Art Museum at MSU, Michigan, MI (2018); Jim Shaw: The Wig Museum, Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA (2017); The End is Here, The New Museum, New York, NY (2016); Entertaining Doubts, MASS MoCA, West Adams, MA (2015); Jim Shaw, Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK (2015); Jim Shaw: The Hidden World, Centre Dürrenmatt, Neuchâtel, Switzerland (2014) and Chalet Society, Paris, France (2013); Jim Shaw’s Dream Drawings, LACMA, Los Angeles, CA (2012); The Rinse Cycle, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2012) and Left Behind, CAPC, Musée de’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2010). In 2013 his work was included in The Encyclopedic Palace at The 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. His work is held in major institutions and private collections worldwide, including Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, amongst others.