New York, 519 West 24th Street
Jim Shaw’s exhibition of paintings and sculpture at Metro Pictures is the influential artist’s first in New York since his 2015 New Museum survey "The End is Here,” in which he exhibited an immersive installation; his idiosyncratic paintings, drawings and sculpture; his exalted collection of thrift store paintings (first shown at Metro Pictures in 1991); and densely accumulated oddball religious ephemera. An icon of the Los Angeles art scene, he is associated with a generation of artists that includes Mike Kelley, John Miller and Tony Oursler, all of whom studied at Cal Arts in the 1970s.
Rendered in exquisite detail, Shaw’s virtuosic work combines his analysis of the political, social and spiritual histories of the United States with contemplative reflections of his own psyche. For more than three decades he has examined art history, comic books, subcultural undergrounds and consumer products—to name only a few of his wide-ranging fields of interest—to articulate a distinct visual language that charts the country’s ever-shifting sociopolitical landscape.
The paintings in this exhibition incorporate symbols and characters of the past to comment on our fraught present. Using imagery drawn from Old Testament stories, pagan myths and satirical cartoons, Shaw relies on his encyclopedic knowledge to visualize our common vernacular. His layered symbology reads like an exaggerated mirror of our hyper-mediated, “post-truth” reality. These allusions to biblical prophecies and pulp imagery speak to the effects this bellicose time has on our collective subconscious. Shaw’s Ms. Universe refers to the mythological tale of the rape of Europa, famously depicted by Titian and countless artists throughout history, in which the titular Phoenician woman is abducted by Zeus in disguise as a bull. In Shaw’s interpretation of the scene, Zeus appears as an alpha male centaur bull wearing a modern business suit and checking his wristwatch. Walking along a beach he approaches Europa, who has washed ashore wearing a pageant dress and a Miss Universe sash, her face obscured by a swirling galaxy divinely emanating from her torso.
On view through December 22, 2017