Friday, September 4, 2015

Back from the dead: All for what? (orig. 10/22/07)




p.s. Hey. It's my second to last day in Geneva. Here's an oldie post. I used to make posts like this one all time back in the day for better or worse. Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back from the dead: Jim Shaw Day (orig. 10/06/07)


'In his complex series of paintings, drawings, sculptures, musical projects and videos, Jim Shaw fully inhabits the pop life, scouring it for mysteries, exposing its pathologies and taking it to the analyst's couch. As a member of the first TV generation, he showcases a kind of remote-control esthetic. His exhibitions seem to flip through the channels of American culture, continually exposing new formats, art styles, newsbites and plots in progress.

'Steeped in references to countless rock songs, movies and TV shows, Shaw's work reflects commercial entertainment's saturation of baby-boomer experience. Depictions of Marvel comics heroes, characters from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and Norman Rockwell magazine covers drift into his works like snatches of nearly forgotten oldies overheard on an elevator. Juggling mass-market touchstones, he conjures the American pop unconscious, reinterpreting episodes and rewriting anthems that we thought we'd successfully repressed.' -- Michael Duncan



The Donner Party
from New York Magazine

What do maimed appliances, mutilated Barbies, Mormons, cannibals, feminists, and Mr. Magoo have in common? Jim Shaw’s 2003 installation The Donner Party, on view at P.S.1 starting May 24, takes its name from the infamous group of flesh-eating pioneers, its form from Judy Chicago’s much-analyzed work The Dinner Party, and its philosophy from “O-ism”—Shaw’s made-up feminist-meets-Mormon religion of which we’d imagine Big Love’s Margene (wife No. 3) at the helm. Is this history rewritten? Perverse arts and crafts? Some sort of attack on Chicago? We asked Shaw to explain.

1. The Concept
“It’s not really a satire,” says Shaw. “The idea came from switching the i in The Dinner Party to o. O-ism is the feminist version of Mormonism. Its symbolic animals would be orangutans and octopi. I’m pretending that the Donner party would have converted to O-ism and headed west to find the promised land: Omaha. It starts with an O and it’s halfway west. Besides, Omaha has really good thrift stores,” the source of many of the work’s materials. “I’m also working on film elements like an O-ist exercise tape.”

2. The Wagons
“We designed them without a computer. We ordered a bunch of wheels from an Amish wheelwright over the Internet—of course, they have to have a non-Amish person to do the Internet selling. The circling, which forms the table itself, is something you’d do when you’re surrounded by Native Americans. It’s meant to be a stereotype of the Old West, but also forms a perfect self-enclosed unit.”

3. The Place Settings
To create them, the artist enlisted nineteen students and colleagues. Each chose a name connected to O-ism (Yoko Ono, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Mormonism founder Joseph Smith) and a few of Shaw’s thrift-store finds and household appliances. “[The result] was sort of childlike, and not as varied as I had hoped,” he says. “It’s supposed to be about a situation that got out of control, like the Donner party, and that’s an aspect that got out of my control.” As for the collective effort, “The Dinner Party was criticized for Chicago’s alleged exploitation of her collaborators. Up until this project, I had a hard time collaborating, so it was in part about that, but also the notion of artistic cannibalism.”

4. The Vacuum Cleaner
At the center of the circle is a vacuum, which Shaw says “sucks into itself. I was thinking about the way in which art inevitably stamps what comes after it. It’s on the ruins of a campfire, surrounded by wrapped pieces of meat representing the different artists who are being cannibalized, like Jackson Pollock and Judy Chicago. [Members of] the Donner party didn’t want to eat their own relatives, so they wrapped the meat up and labeled it.”

5. The Canvas Backdrop
“It’s set against the landscape of the Sierra Nevada. It gives the work a presentation similar to the Mormon visitor center in Salt Lake City. The figures are supposed to be confusing: feminist artist Lynda Benglis; actress Tina Louise as the anti-O, the whore of Babylon; Mr. Magoo as Bacchus; Loki; L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. They were painted by many different people who had many different styles, so there was supposed to be an element of chaos. It wasn’t as chaotic as I wanted it to be.”

You are there: ''The Donner Party' at PS1


Jim Shaw @ Metro Pictures
Jim Shaw @ Patrick Painter
Jim Shaw @ Bernier/Eliades


Destroy All Monsters

'Formed in 1973, the first edition of Destroy All Monsters was formed by University of Michigan art students Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Niagara and filmmaker Cary Loren. They performed in the Ann Arbor area from 1973-1976, and their only release was a one hour cassette of their recordings available only through Lightworks magazine. Their early music was Influenced by Sun Ra, Velvet Underground, ESP records, monster movies, beat culture and futurism' their sound was experimental, psychedelic, darkly humorous and droning.

'On New Years eve of 1973, the first Destroy All Monsters concert was held at a comic book convention in Ann Arbor, Michigan. At the time the instruments were a violin, a sax, a vacuum cleaner and a coffee can. They performed a demented version of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" and were asked to leave after ten minutes. The group performed "Guerilla Style" setting up for free at parties, playing for food along Ann Arbor's frat row. They used modified instruments, a drum box, tape loops, hot-wired toys, cheap keyboards and broken electronic devices. The only formal gig they had (beside the comic convention) was at the Halloween Ball at the University of Michigan art school in 1976.'  -- Wikipedia

Destroy All Monsters 'Grow Live Monsters 1972 - 1976'

Take Me With You - Destroy All Monsters

Destroy All Monsters: That's My Ideal

Destroy All Monsters - Shake a Lizard Tail or Rust Belt Rump

a manifesto of ignorance; destroy all monsters
by cary loren (May 1996)

destroy all monsters began as an anti-rock band. our menagerie of words, images and sounds were an attempt to thumb our noses at the pretentious circus of rock-star bullshit and musical emptiness that filled the air-waves during the early to mid-1970"s. the images that moved us then were a strange combination of film-noir, monster movies, psychedelia, thrift-shop values and the relentless drone of a crazed popular culture. our influences were a combination of audiovisual stimuli such as man ray, the velvet underground and NICO, the hairy who, silver apples, captain beefheart, stanley mouse, SUN RA, comix, stooges, beardsley, and the mc5. we were mid-west art student loners flying through time in a blur of art and noise. it"s predictable that it would take twenty years to gain some perspective. our music sometimes contained a narrative or storytelling direction that was never well explored. a sense of gloom, disaster and apocalypse mixed with doses of anarchy, comedy and absurdity kept us together and were some of the major themes which colored our small scene. our alienation and heightened anxiety was a PSYCHOTRONIC view of life we each shared to various degrees. i felt we were creating sounds we wanted to exist but weren"t to be found in the slick desolate landscape around us. with virtually no audience and little support, we continued expressing our end-of-times messages and outsider beliefs; a sort of paranoiac-critical garage band. emerging from the detroit rust-belt stained our activities with an industrial psychedelic patina.

jim"s noise guitar added invaluable textures and a super-sonic resonance weaving throughout our jams. mike"s experimental sound-net meshed well with his sense of the comedic. my girlfriend at that time, niagara, also had a gift for grande black-comedy , her voice a blend of betty-boop and off-key nico. her scratchy violin playing was equally anti-musical but lent a strong visual statement. indeed her costuming, and ghostly-complexion helped lend the group a nightshade quality. we understood our limitations but as an underground band of mad-scientists we expected our delusions to expand and contaminate society. there was also the fact we were each strongly developed visual artists, sensitized to the decadent, theatrical, and off-beat. our constant flow of music, films, drawings, paintings, photographs, collages and magazines were a romantic imitation of an art movement in progress. the history of the band seems episodic, dreamy, and self-obsessed. i"ve often wondered at the possibilities if we had only been given more time and opportunity. although reflections of the past are a sad excuse for our DUST, the time now seemed right for some tolerance. (cont.)

THE END IS HERE FOR ETERNITY (MOTHERFUCKER): A Destroy All Monsters History, Discography, and More
Destroy All Monsters Scrapbook
Destroy All Monsters @ myspace


The Thrift Store Paintings

'Jim Shaw, 45, has been collecting thrift store paintings since the 1970s. In 1990, the well known Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha published a book, Thrift Store Paintings (Heavy Industry Publications), containing many pieces from Shaw's impressive collection, which he guesses now numbers at 300. In 1991, a year after the book was published, Shaw curated a thrift store paintings show at Metro Pictures in New York. The work received a lot of press; since Shaw is an artist, the art world perceived it as "a conceptual thing."

'"Someone asked me if I would sell my collection for a million dollars," says Shaw. "Back then I said 'no way.'" Once someone did actually offer him $100,000 for it. He refused. Now he wishes he didn't. His more than 300 paintings are "spilling" out of his basement. And he's not living the glamorous life out there in Highland Park, CA, either. Aside from being an artist, he says, "I teach occasionally."

'In addition to attention from art dealers, Shaw was contacted by artists who had seen newspaper articles about the book and recognized their own work. "An artist whose painting was included in the book called me and said: 'I don't know whether to sue you or ask for a copy of the book,'" says Shaw. (The artist settled for a copy of the book.)' -- Jennifer Darr, City Paper


The Book:

Thrift Store Paintings, edited by Jim Shaw (Heavy Industry Publications, P.O. Box 85428, Hollywood, CA 90072; $24.95, paper). 'As nothing is more bizarre than the ordinary artifact closely observed, this full-color catalogue of 201 paintings by amateurs and hobbyists shoots to the top of the charts of estimably odd coffee-table art books. Conceived and designed by artist Jim Shaw and published by artist Ed Ruscha and Danna Ruscha, the riveting volume is all pictures, no text-save for the purely descriptive titles given to the paintings. "Indian Maidens Frolic in Bikinis," "Man and Woman Emerge From Egg in Seascape" and the ever-popular "Wolves Attacking Steer Carcass on Snowy Night" are among the subjects these vernacular artists felt they simply had to paint. These pictures were then snapped up by Shaw and other collectors at the salon des refuses of suburban American culture-the neighborhood thrift store. And you thought modern art was strange.' -- Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times


Jim Shaw's Real Life Top Ten (excerpt)
from Artforum

1. Miss Velma’s Bicentennial extravaganza, CHRISTMAS IN AMERICA, is the most amazing piece of video I’ve ever seen. Existing at the low-budget end of Aimee Semple McPherson’s LA-based Christian spectacle tradition, she’s been putting on glitter-encrusted performances for decades. In this, her masterwork, all manner of poetry, song, and theatrics is enacted on tinsel-draped sets. In the crowning segment, Miss Velma does a Native American dance in a red, white, and blue headdress, shoots out balloons at forty paces with a pistol, and plays a carol on a penorgan. A one-woman variety show for Jesus.

2. It’s hard to imagine a more godforsaken place than Slab City, California, at the southern end of the festering Salton Sea. Yet this is home to SALVATION MOUNTAIN and its creator, Leonard Knight, who lives in his ancient hand-decorated truck and works in an igloo built of adobe, the same material used in his monument. Coated with innumerable layers of housepaint to keep it gleaming under the boiling desert sun, the awe-inspiring work bears a resemblance to early Oldenburgs in the details, which are all you see as you clamber across its surface, surrounded by Bible quotes and the Sinner’s Prayer. All of the local government’s attempts to raze it only focused more attention on Knight’s message, his only goal. It seems fitting that, after he’s gone, the mountain, like flesh, will gradually return to the dust from which it was created.3 On the LP TELL ME A STORY, AUNT B, you’ll find the most chilling children’s tales ever recorded for unsuspecting Protestants. “The Golden Age” tells of a rebellious boy wishing for adult freedoms forced to view a future of wage slavery, his mother’s demise, and his eventual feebleness and death. “Sorry Is as Sorry Does” tells of a naughty boy named Sorry who ignores his mother’s cautions about making prank phone calls, shoots his playmate with his dad’s revolver, and prays for redemption with his doubtful mom, played by the aging and malevolent Aunt B.

4. It’s difficult to choose the best JACK CHICK comic. Early tracts, like “One Way,” are endearingly perverse and have a purity lost when artist Fred Carter gave the later comics their slick veneer. However, Carter did pump up the latent sadomasochistic, Tom of Finland-esque aspects. The “Alberto” series features a hunky, biracial duo of Christian Crusaders as they listen to the paranoid ravings of an escaped Jesuit who testifies to the horrors of the Catholic church. Alberto’s delineation of a Baal-worship-based papal conspiracy to send all Bible believers to Hell, steal the Holy Land from the Jews, murder Lincoln, start the Communist and Nazi parties, send phony Christians to steal his sister, and poison his dental work puts this one over the top. It’s also pushed Chick further out of the fundamentalist mainstream, his antiCatholic vehemence making him a pariah, and only reinforcing his paranoia.5 The high point of REV. ETHAN ACRES’s debut show at Patty Faure Gallery wasn’t the rotating multihorned “Lamb of God” or his beautiful “Highway Chapel,” but a moment that occurred after his Sunday morning sermon. While Acres performed blessings of expectedly ironic things (master tapes, a poodle, Christian kitsch), another, clearly sincere, Christian artist came up, tears streaming down his cheeks, overjoyed to find a kindred soul. Here was an intersection one doesn’t expect in postmodern art, a collision of faith and artifice.

6. When AWAKE! updated its look, I was upset the magazine had yielded to the relentless forces of progress, until I realized it was still ten years behind the times and continued to distill its images to render perfect archetypes: drug addict, worried teen, Beast of the Apocalypse. The system of distribution (in whatever laundromat or bus station you’re stuck in) is genius.

7. The pivotal character in Larry Clark’s film ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE is a gunpeddling preacher played by James Otis who takes the wounded protagonist and his adopted family of drug-dealing thieves into his guarded compound. Embodying a frightening set of opposites and taking on some of his young charge’s sexual uncertainty and severity allow him an authority that eludes laughter.

8. I once found a pile of hand-tinted silkscreened images from the Book of Revelations pictorialized in what seemed to be an easy-to-understand way - if you had the long-gone interpretations of the preacher who used them to explain the mysterious final Gospel. Later I learned that V.T. HOUTEFF, their creator, was the founder of the “Shepherd’s Rod,” which evolved into the church we now call the Branch Davidians.

9. The most anomalous Christian instructional artworks I’ve found are the Bethel series. Painted around 1960 by WALTER OHLSON in a Surrealist/advertising style, these allegorical works use some suspiciously New Agey icons, like rainbows, to convey their meanings, elaborated in discussion guides whose exactitude lessens, unfortunately, the mystery of the images.

10. CHESTER BROWN, today’s greatest comic artist, has been rendering the Gospels in the back of his Yummy Fur and Underwater. They came as a perplexing contrast to the wild scatological content of Ed, the Happy Clown, the main serialized story. As he began to chart stories from his personal experiences, the Gospels became stranger, the characters reflecting the contradictory nature of Jesus - okay, maybe I can’t explain the appeal of these works, maybe as a nonbeliever in a Puritan-based culture there’s some combination of vicarious piety and guilty Christian recidivism involved in my fascination with them.


p.s. Hey. I'm still in Geneva. In fact, tonight, in Geneva, the world premiere of the English language version of Gisele Vienne's and my new theater work 'The Ventriloquists Convention' is happening, so, while you're hopefully enjoying this old post about the wonderful artist Jim Shaw, wish us luck please. Take care.