World famous artist and (much more importantly) my cousin JIM SHAW still has two major exhibits of his work on display until the end of January. I’ve written about the one up at Mass MoCa in the Berkshires, which shows much more of Jim’s fascination with superheroes, including a series of drawings combining William Blake reinterpreted in the style of Superman artist Wayne Boring.
I haven’t written as much about his exhibit in New York City, at the New Museum in the Bowery. This second exhibit is called “The End is Here”. It is an overview of his art throughout his career, including his early fascination with reinterpreting various artistic styles of our childhood with more modern, often subversive, themes. One painting, done in the style of Norman Rockwell, shows a pair of boys beside a hollow tree that they have filled with old issues of Playboy. These paintings often show monstrous or surreal images that connect directly to our lives growing up ion “middle America.”
The most fascinating part of this exhibit was a large room dedicated to the religion Jim invented, “Oism.” The walls are covered by large religious paintings and banners extolling the tenets of the religion, while the center of the room holds glass cases, filled with prints and books (some in foreign languages) that exhibit an Oist philosophy. Some of the books and prints and paintings were created by Jim, while others are items he found in his travels around the world selling his art. Unless you look very closely at the little cards describing the various pieces (and sometimes not even then) you cannot divide the real and the unreal. Standing in that room, it felt to me like I had stepped into an alternate reality, just slightly out of step with the “real world.” This, I thought, was the art world equivalent of the New Weird, a current movement in the world of horror fiction that concentrates more on the unsettling than the graphic. This part of Jim’s exhibit was just “not right” in the very best way.
Both of these exhibits continue for two more weeks. I think both of them are worth your while.