Artist Jim Shaw’s Spiritual and Aesthetic Histories of America


An alum from the experimental CalArts days in the 1970s, artist Jim Shaw has taken inspiration from his adopted home of Los Angeles, but his childhood days in suburban Michigan and the Lynchian underbelly of America are also the foundation of his work.

Blending the counterculture, pop culture, and consumer culture, Shaw explores the nation’s subconscious using religious iconography alongside monster magazine covers and art historical references with crackpot conspiracy theories — all while presenting thrift store paintings as a pre-historical, O-ist timeline (O-ism being a fictional religion he created in 2000).

The End is Here, Shaw’s first New York survey, presents some of the artist’s most iconic work, including Shaw’s early airbrush paintings, “Dream Drawings,” and large-scale installations. “These instantly recognizable works and series — which succeed in reinvigorating and complicating traditional categories like portraiture, history painting, figurations, and abstraction — have never before been brought together in a single exhibition.” The show closes Sunday, January 10.

Jim Shaw, Anima V (Air), 1987. Oil on canvas, 17 x 14 in (43.2 x 35.6 cm). Courtesy Marc Jancou Contemporary, New York & Geneva

Jim Shaw, Billy’s Self-portrait #1 (Famous Monsters Cover), 1986. Gouache on board, 17 1/4 x 14 1/4 in (43.8 x 36.2 cm), framed. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Partial gift of Judy and Stuart Spence and purchased with funds provided by the Robert H. Halff Endowment and the Contemporary Art Deaccession Fund. Photo © Museum Associates/ LACMA

Jim Shaw, Untitled (Distorted Faces series), 1985. Graphite, airbrush, and Prismacolor on paper, 14 x 11 in (35.6 x 27.9 cm). Collection the artist

Jim Shaw, The Jefferson Memorial, 2013. Acrylic on muslin with acrylic on muslin cut-out, hot glue, and fishing line, 144 x 264 in (365.8 x 670.6 cm). Courtesy Metro Pictures, New York, and Simon Lee Gallery, London. Photo: Lotte Stekelenburg

Jim Shaw, Dream Drawing (“We were sharing a house with Jody Zellen…”), 1995. Pencil on paper, 12 x 9 in (30.5 x 22.9 cm). Courtesy the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles

Jim Shaw, Seven Deadly Sins, 2013. Acrylic on muslin, triptych; left panel: 96 x 48 in (243.8 x 121.9 cm); center panel: 96 x 96 in (243.8 x 243.8 cm); right panel: 96 x 48 in (243.8 x 121.9 cm). Marciano Art Collection

Jim Shaw, Protest Poster, 1986. Acrylic on board, 17 1⁄4 x 14 1⁄4 in (43.8 x 36.2 cm). Ringier Collection, Switzerland

Jim Shaw, Untitled (Large Face with Famous Monster Logo), 2003. Pencil on paper, 72 x 48 in (182.9 x 121.9 cm). Private Collection

Jim Shaw, The Apple of His Eye, 1988. Gouache on board, 17 x 14 in (43.2 x 35.6 cm). Courtesy Marc Jancou Contemporary, New York & Geneva

Jim Shaw, World of Pain (Silver Version), 1991. Photostat on Mylar with cardboard back, 17 x 14 in (43.2 x 35.6 cm). Exhibition copy. Collection the artist