|Jim Shaw - The Rinse Cycle 2012 acrylic on muslin|
Have you ever tried to describe a crazy dream you had, or tried to follow someone describing such a dream? Then you will have some idea what it's like to experience the large exhibition Entertaining Doubts by California artist Jim Shaw at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. Shaw draws a great deal from his dreams, and attempts to manifest them physically through sculpture, painting, and installation.
|Jim Shaw - Frank Frazetta Figure 2013 - installation view|
|Jim Shaw - Blake/Boring 2010|
ink on paper
Sources as disparate as William Blake and Walt Disney are blended into the Superman myth as processed by Shaw, connecting the visionary's Songs of Innocence and Experience to the Seven Dwarves and then linking it to Kryptonite.
|Jim Shaw - Fire Female 2012|
faux hair wigs with airbrush
Shaw also shines in book-page-scale drawings of vortices, swirls of hair, and others of his many obsessions (architecture, the human body, American Indians, snakes, and Wagner's Ring series among them).
Shaw's sculptural forays include architectural dioramas, amusing surrealistic furniture designs (such as a nose-shaped wall sconce), and bizarre wigs, which also appear in a series of paintings made over inkjet prints, rather than discarded muslin. These paintings extend Shaw's technique of altering given imagery and introduce a self-conscious reference to art history in the form of a white rectangle cut out of the colorful image, then replaced outside it as a gray-toned expressionist swirl.
Meaning what? As with the dreams, I couldn't quite get inside Shaw's head to understand the point. But I'm grateful that it's such an active place, and that an artist of Shaw's ability makes the effort to take us there. Entertaining Doubts continues through February 2016.
|Jim Shaw - The Issue of My Loins 2015 (installation detail)|
In addition to Jim Shaw, MASS MoCA is currently featuring several other exhibitions. Two that are particularly worthy of note:
Not only a powerfully moving experience of what the incredibly numerous birds were once able to do (i.e. blot out the sky), Eclipse is a brilliant example of digital technology put to an innovative purpose as art. It also offers a beautifully produced oversized publication free to visitors. Eclipse is a must-see; it continues through Sept. 1.
Bibliotecaphilia is a group show curated by Allie Foradas with support from the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute that brings together six very diverse artists around the theme of books.
It includes a complex interactive installation by Jonathan Gitelson that invites visitors to spend time with a great variety of books annotated by their former owners; Dan Peterman's wonderful sculpture titled The Polymer Catalog - one ton archive, which looks like massive stacks of books but is just slices of colorful recycled plastic boards; Meg Hitchcock's painstaking and beautifully transcendent collages made of individual letters cut from holy books; and a large-scale carved wooden screen by Susan Hefuna.
Also included in Bibliotecaphilia are Jean Prebe's site-specific sculpture titled The Secret Lives of Books (pictured below), and an adults-only series of nine videos by Clayton Cubitt titled Hysterical Literature, in each of which a woman sits at a table and reads aloud from a book of her choosing until she has an orgasm (you don't see what's going on below the table, but it apparently involves a skillfully wielded vibrator).
Bibliotecaphilia continues through the end of 2015.