For Immediate Release
14 May 2015
Contact: Jodi Joseph
Director of Communications
Jim Shaw: Entertaining Doubts
Largest U.S. exhibition of west-coast artist features large-scale works that focus on political, cultural, and religious fallibility
“At the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Jim Shaw takes on faith — and doubt — in a body of work that captures, better than any I have seen in years, what the writer Philip Roth called ‘the indigenous American berserk.’ The exhibition, organized by MASS MoCA’s Denise Markonish, might prove to be the show of the summer.
It addresses not only credulity and collapse, but fantasy and absurdity, demagoguery and corruption, protest and pathology. It delves into Shaw’s own personal biography, his skepticism, his compulsive creativity. And it is absolutely, utterly hilarious.” – Sebastian Smee, The Boston Globe
Read the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic’s full review of Jim Shaw: Entertaining Doubts in The Boston Globe.
NORTH ADAMS, MASSACHUSETTS – Since the 1970s, Jim Shaw has mined the essentials of American cultural detritus – from comic books, pulp novels, and album covers, to vintage advertisements, movie posters, and noise rock. Currently at MASS MoCA, the artist presents his largest exhibition in the U.S., a vast body of work that features recurring characters including himself, his friends, fictional superheroes, politicians, and film stars. In addition to work from the past 10 years – including Shaw’s large painted backdrops, drawings, and sculpture – Entertaining Doubts, features a new site-specific installation. The exhibition is on view through early February 2016.
Shaw uses a focus on the over-arching themes of fallibility – fallen heroes, collapsed economies, and political figures – to center his exhibition around a series of large-scale paintings begun in 2004 on old, cut-apart theatrical backdrops. Turning painting into architecture, these works essentially function as political cartoons, populated by figures such as Barbara Bush, 20th-century religious prophet Aleister Crowley, and Dan Quayle, with themes ranging from the seven deadly sins and the four horsemen of the apocalypse to the great deluge. Continuing this series for MASS MoCA, Shaw has created a new work, Not Since Superman Died, on a 24×49-foot sectioned backdrop, which focuses on an injured and endangered Superman. The superhero in peril is a well-known motif, but Shaw never shows the heroic escape – turning Superman into a mere mortal.
In addition to these banner works, the exhibition includes paintings and objects, and a series of films relating to Shaw’s Oism project. “Oism,” a false religion created by Shaw, draws from the history of American religious practices, from Mormonism to Scientology. Supposedly founded in the 1840s by Annie O’Wooton, who discovered a prophesy about “O,” Shaw’s religion centers on a virgin who gave birth to herself at the dawn of history and brought writing and agriculture to society, but it was eventually toppled by the “I” – a stand-in for patriarchy/ego. Shaw weaves a believable tale but consistently reinforces the idea that his religion, like all religions, comes from the imagination of its inventor. The films in this series vary – one is part of a rock opera light show; another suggests a 1970s earth mother performance vibe, recalling early experiments with modern dance; and a third echoes low-budget horror film dream sequences.
By combining text and the painted figure with objects and drawings from his unconscious, Shaw’s works twist politics, religion, and belief into one long dream sequence. Throughout, he spans diverse media and reference points, all the while reminding us that the end is near and that reality is absurdly plausible.
About the Artist
Jim Shaw (born 1952 in Midland, Michigan) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He received his B.A. from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and his M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts. His work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including a career retrospective at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, UK; CAPC, Musee de’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux, France; MoMA PS1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, NY; Magasin, Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France; ICA, London; and Musee d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland. Shaw exhibited at the Encyclopedic Palace in the 55th Venice Biennale, Venice, Italy; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands; and the Chalet Society, Paris, France. His work is also featured in prominent public and private collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art, NY; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN. Shaw is represented by Blum & Poe, Los Angeles; Metro Pictures, New York; Simon Lee Gallery, London; and Praz-Delavallade, Paris.
This exhibition is supported by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Blum & Poe, Metro Pictures, Simon Lee Gallery, Atelier 4 Inc., and ArtNet.
A collection of high-resolution images is available here: bit.ly/1El0O55.
About MASS MoCA
MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest) centers for making and enjoying today’s most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. Hundreds of works of visual and performing art have been created on its 19th-century factory campus during fabrication and rehearsal residencies, making MASS MoCA among the most productive sites in the country for the creation and presentation of new art. More platform than box, MASS MoCA strives to bring to its audiences art experiences that are fresh, engaging, and transformative.
MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. From June 26 through September 7, MASS MoCA’s galleries are open 10am to 6pm every day, with extended evening hours to 7pm on Thursdays through Saturdays. The Hall Art Foundation’s Anselm Kiefer exhibition is open seasonally, spring – fall. Gallery admission is $18 for adults, $16 for veterans and seniors, $12 for students, $8 for children 6 to 16, and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free year-round. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 x1 or visit massmoca.org.