Jim Shaw, ‘Untitled’, 1981, Phillips

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From the Catalogue:
"..My misinterpretations would give a more mythic quality than the 'intended' meanings. Like misunderstood song lyrics, as a kid, my interpretations of them meant more to me than a normal reading." - J. Shaw, “Here Comes Everybody: A Conversation Between Jim Shaw and Mike Kelley,” Jim Shaw: Everything Must Go, Luxembourg, 1999, n.p

More radical than a standard caricature yet subtle in its rendering, Jim Shaw’s Untitled belongs to the artist’s admired series of Distorted Faces that encompasses large-scale oil paintings as well as works on paper, depicting wrenched and deformed celebrities, politicians, art world friends – such as Mike Kelley - and anonymous people. Paralleling the Beatnik author William Burroughs’ “cut-up technique” consisting in deconstruction and resemblance of texts, in 1978 Shaw began producing detailed portraits focused on the subjects face by twisting, altering and stretching individual components of it to the point that they become almost monstrous creatures, yet somehow preserve discernible traits of their original identities. Untitled also draws inspiration from the artist’s professional experience working on the special effects of horror films and evokes the covers of magazines such as Famous Monsters of Filmland that the artist used to collect during his childhood. Combining this with a strong post-Pop ethos, Untitled reflects Shaw’s crucial aim of undermining the American culture through misinterpreting its myths.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: inscribed 'J581049 Y' on the reverse

Metro Pictures, New York
Phillips, New York, 19 September 2013, lot 234
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

About Jim Shaw

Famous as a collector of American junk, including a trove of thrift store paintings once sought by art collector Charles Saatchi, Jim Shaw draws on his vast stores of pop cultural artifacts in his work. The My Mirage (1986–91) project comprises nearly 170 drawings, silkscreens, photographs, sculptures, films, and paintings based on a Shaw stand-in called Billy, who grows from childhood to psychosis to born-again Christianity. Billy exists amid a 1960s and ’70s visual overload of pulp novels, comic books, records, and psychedelic posters. The artist’s Oism project, initiated in the late 1990s, explores his fictional religion through media including video installations (recalling both Busby Berkeley musicals and 1980s aerobics videos) and found paintings in the “Oist style.” Shaw’s richly layered practice takes liberally from both art history (Art Brut, Vincent van Gogh, Salvador Dalí, Rene Magritte, Max Ernst) and America’s vernacular of coffeemakers and zombie films.

American, b. 1952, Midland, Michigan, based in Los Angeles, California