Jim Shaw: Hope Against Hope

Online Exhibition
20 October 2020 - 16 January 2021
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Simon Lee Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new paintings by Los Angeles-based artist Jim Shaw, his first at the London gallery since 2016.  As the United States prepares for its upcoming Presidential election, Shaw is more analytical and daring than ever before in his satirical depictions and social commentary.

Shaw is celebrated for the outlandish narratives and sharp wit with which he brings his dystopian, albeit eerily familiar, universe to life. His provocative tableaux, whether sinister, comedic, or somewhere in between, are pieced together from the artist’s own imagination and his prolific collection of magazine and newspaper cut outs, posters and prints, comic books and gimmicky advertisements, which he began collecting during his teenage years in Michigan in the 1960s.

Artwork: Jim Shaw, The Master Mason, 2020
Artwork: Jim Shaw, The Beckoning, 2020
Jim Shaw
The Beckoning, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
195.6 x 121.9 x 4.4 cm (77 x 48 x 1 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Image:

Jim Shaw, Hope Against Hope, Simon Lee Gallery, London, 2020. Photo: Ben Westoby

Shaw’s practice has always been inherently ‘American’, imbued with national references and critiques, some contemporary, others historic and now deeply embedded into American culture. In these latest works – painted over found theatrical backdrops, with some featuring subtle sculptural elements – produced during a time of constantly evolving political, social and economic polarity, Shaw plays on oppositions: alluding to past events in service of urgent commentary on our fraught present and blending fiction with reality in order to highlight the fantastic state of contemporary American life.

Artwork: Jim Shaw, Jimmie Olsen vs. the Goddess of Reason, 2020
Jim Shaw
Jimmie Olsen vs. the Goddess of Reason, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
134.6 x 134.6 x 6.3 cm (53 x 53 x 2 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Artwork: Jim Shaw, Pandora’s Box, 2020
Jim Shaw
Pandora’s Box, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
119.4 x 101.6 x 4.4 cm (47 x 40 x 1 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Artwork: Jim Shaw, The Adoration, 2020
Jim Shaw
The Adoration, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
167.6 x 121.9 x 4.4 cm (66 x 48 x 1 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Artwork: Jim Shaw, The Red Shoes, 2020
Jim Shaw
The Red Shoes, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
203.2 x 94 x 4.4 cm (80 x 37 x 1 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery

In new acrylic works on muslin, retro home appliances hark back to the post-War promise of the production line despite their redundant use-value in this context, while politicians and notable public figures are disfigured by the representational effects of their self-centred and aggrandising decisions. Shaw has never been one to shy away from provocation: the artist boldly imagines Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, and his wife, Melania, descending an escalator into Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell to find a group of traitors, some of them discarded former aides, frozen alongside Satan in a sea of ice. Shaw’s monsters and villains, whether real or fictional, are larger than life; ultimately, these paintings convey a sense of vicissitude that is reflective of the country’s ever-shifting socio-political landscape.

Artwork: Jim Shaw, The Golden Gate, 2020
Jim Shaw
The Golden Gate, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
368.3 x 179.1 cm (145 x 70 1/2 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Artwork: Jim Shaw, Open the Doors, See All the People, 2020
Image:

Jim Shaw, Hope Against Hope, Simon Lee Gallery, London, 2020. Photo: Ben Westoby

Throughout the exhibition, Shaw continues his fertile commentary on the grotesquery of late capitalism in contemporary American society. One Percent for Art, is concerned with the country’s booming real estate market. Percent-for-art programmes require a portion of the budget of large-scale development projects be allocated to fund public art and installations; as a result, in cities such as Los Angeles and New York, sweeping avenues and corporate plazas play host to countless classic abstract sculptures - an Alexander Calder stabile, for example – symbols of wealth and power. The ‘1 percent’, a term that also references the wealthiest echelon of society, implies divide and excess, in order to highlight, in this case, the art world’s tolerance for inequity, and the increasing inaccessibility of culture to those of a lower socio-economic bracket – the irony of the artist’s own participation in what he perceives as a toxic gallery system that predicates cultural access on status and riches is not lost here.

Artwork: Jim Shaw, Magical Thinking, 2020
Jim Shaw
Magical Thinking, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
119.4 x 101.6 x 4.4 cm (47 x 40 x 1 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Artwork: Jim Shaw, Donald and Melania Trump descending the escalator into the 9th circle of hell reserved for traitors frozen in a sea of ice, 2020
Artwork: Jim Shaw, One Percent for Art, 2020

Constructed through his unique lens on esoterica, conspiracy theory, popular culture, and his own fictional religion Oism, these paintings demonstrate Shaw’s fearless desire to tell of an alternate reality, one in which ill intention, conspicuous consumption, gross wealth and corruption are met with consequences. Societal ills are exposed, although the question of whether aspiring to a more transparent future is fool’s paradise remains unanswered.

Artwork: Jim Shaw, The Hope That Blinds, 2020
Jim Shaw
The Hope That Blinds, 2020
Acrylic on muslin
124.5 x 96.5 x 4.4 cm (49 x 38 x 1 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Artwork: Jim Shaw, Beauty and the Beast (Dr Teller and Friend), 2020
Jim Shaw
Beauty and the Beast (Dr Teller and Friend), 2020
Acrylic on muslin
137.2 x 101.6 x 4.4 cm (54 x 40 x 1 3/4 in.)
Courtesy of Simon Lee Gallery
Artwork: Jim Shaw, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, 2020
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Jim Shaw In Conversation with Lydia Yee

About the Artist

Born in 1952 in Midland, MI, Jim Shaw lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He received his BFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles, CA. Shaw’s work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions and projects, including Metro Pictures, New York, NY (2019); The Broad Art Museum at MSU, Michigan, MI (2018); Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles, CA (2017); The New Museum, New York, NY (2016);  MASS MoCA, West Adams, MA (2015);  Simon Lee Gallery, London, UK (2015); Centre Dürrenmatt, Neuchâtel, CH (2014); Chalet Society, Paris, France (2013);  LACMA, Los Angeles, CA (2012); BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK (2012); CAPC, Musée de’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2010); MoMA PS1, New York, NY (2007) and MAGASIN, Centre National d’Art Contemporain de Grenoble, Grenoble, France (2003). Majorgroup exhibitions include Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, New York, NY (2020); Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, AZ (2019); Met Breuer, New York, NY (2018); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2014); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (2010); Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2008); and Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2006). In 2013 his work was included in The Encyclopedic Palace at The 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy. His work belongs to major private and public collections 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. 

Learn more about the artist. 

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