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October 12, 2016—January 29, 2017

Jim Shaw



After a somewhat discreet debut on the Californian neo-Conceptual scene in the 1980s, the work of Jim Shaw (1952, Midland, MI) had gained widespread institutional recognition by the end of the 1990s. By that time, it was clear he had made a decisive contribution to identifying the issues for his generation, in particular the critique of the author’s status and the loss of the work’s aura.

Shaw most frequently works in extensive series, which may encompass a wide range of diverse content. For instance, My Mirage (1986–1991)—a huge fictional biography of a character called Billy — comprises almost 170 pieces and journeys through the popular iconography of the American 20th century; while Shaw’s recent project The Hidden World assembles several hundred collected objects to do with religious imagery and the narrative invention of sects. Since 1992, Shaw has also been recording his dreams as drawings (Dream Drawings): in pencil, using always the same format paper, he traces a tightly structured narrative, with virtuoso reduction effects. Reassessing America’s reception of European Surrealism, the dream drawings set out to restore the unconscious of the artist “Jim Shaw.” Works of art are therefore a prominent feature, both those of artists who are close to him (like Mike Kelley) and his own. At the same time, Shaw has set about making the objects that inhabit his dreams, giving us the Dream Objects. These bear extravagantly long titles describing the situations in which they appeared. Unlike the drawings, whose form never varies, the Dream Objects are stylistically diverse, evoking by turns pastiches of other artists, amateur paintings, furniture and relics — they frequently fall into several of these categories at once. Most of the objects in this room have been offered by the artist to the museum in 2016 and might serve as a summary or index of this body of works: in it, set out as if in a thrift store, are costumes, illustrations, and toys which, while seeming to conjure a fantastic universe of castles and cornucopias, are also eager to flaunt their cast-off vocabulary.











Jim Shaw, Dream of Thrift Store, 1994-2001,
MAMCO collection and private collection, Geneva.
Photo: Annik Wetter—MAMCO, Geneva.