Magazine article Artforum International

Jim Shaw

Magazine article Artforum International

Jim Shaw

Article excerpt

ROSAMUND FELSEN GALLERY

Given Jim Shaw's penchant for treating his mental landscape as an archaeological dig, it's not surprising that for the last few years he's been mining his dreams. This show contained forty-five pieces based on images that Shaw has lugged back from his excursions into the Land of Nod. Executed in a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, fake greeting cards, cartoons, models, photographs, and drawings in various mutations, the work reflected the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink quality of dreams. These souvenirs from far-flung psychic galaxies ran the gamut from tweaked cartoon pastiche, to eerie images of mutating snakes and armless, legless figures mummified in gold lame, to faux Color Field paintings, to objects that looked like they'd been lifted from a fun house.

Dream Object (I'm attaching yellow-green velvet...), 1997, is a Howdy Doody doll with an erection, shouldering a clunky cross. Dream Object (I found a Geo. McManus Cartoon . . .), 1997, is a beautifully drawn aping of the style of the mild cartoonist of the title, depicting his characters in decidedly uncharacteristic poses. One figure lies on her back, exposing her nether parts; another has his naked ass mashed against a full-length mirror; while a third totes a sign that proclaims: "POLICE BLANKETS." Dream Object (Bottle, Torso, Buds, and Tie), 1997, looks like a 3-D model of a golf course. A pair of gouache and colored pencil drawings, Dream Object (Looking for a decomposing body . . .), 1997, and Dream Object (We found a burned wardrobe . . .), 1997, are delightful collections of absurdist images, afloat on green and pink backgrounds, respectively, in the droll '50s illustration style Shaw mimics and manipulates so flawlessly.

Some of the more dimensional work, such as Dream Object (Poons' sculpture), 1997, and Magic Hat, Rabbit, and Magic Box, 1996, bring to mind large, slightly scary versions of a child's first attempts at fashioning clay representations of objects. These pieces are drippy, blobby, and lumpy - intentionally crudely modeled. The magic box itself is festooned with protuberances that look like bloody spears, flaming arrows, or badly injured feet. One can imagine a confused but conscientious morn smiling a tad uncomfortably at this work and cooing, "That's lovely, dear. What's it supposed to be?"

Judging by the snippets of reported dream narrative included on the show's checklist, Shaw conveniently dreams with remarkable frequency about artworks he makes, stumbles across, is working on, or purchases. In fact, all but two of the twenty-seven pieces for which he provides dream texts somehow involve the production or viewing of art. …

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