After studying at the California Institute of the Arts alongside artists such as Mike Kelley, John Miller and Tony Oursler, Jim Shaw developed his own body of work in cycles, exploring fictional realms that resonated from one work to the next. His Dream Drawings, Dream Objects and My Mirage cycles were followed in the late 1990s by ‘Oism’, an imaginary religion whose rituals, principles and characters he defined as a parody of American spiritual movements such as the Mormons. Taking his inspiration from sources as varied as American popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s and history books, the large-scale project drew on a process of accumulation and free association. It can be read as a critique of totalitarian thought systems, whether political, ideological, religious or artistic in nature.
The installation The Goodman Image File and Study is part of the ‘Oist’ series. It is a fictional archive of documents supposedly collected by an artist by the name of Adam O. Goodman, surrounded by seven of his abstract paintings, juxtaposing popular, worldly images and the mythical purity of abstract art. The filing cabinets contain a vast range of figurative imagery from American magazines of the 1950s and 1960s, including Life Magazine, National Geographic, Ebony, Esquire and Playboy, organised alphabetically by theme – men, women, children, stars, artists, religion, sport, architecture, mammals, reptiles, birds, design, landscape, fashion, food, alcohol, tobacco, weapons, science and so on. Visitors are invited to consult the archive, which is part obsessive repertoire, part visual record of a particular moment in history.
Charlotte Laubard (ed.), Jim Shaw, exh. cat. Bordeaux, CAPC Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, Dijon, Les Presses du réel, 2012.
Lionel Bovier (ed.), Jim Shaw, Zurich, JRP Ringier, 2011.
Lionel Bovier, Jim Shaw, exh. cat. Grenoble, Magasin-Centre national d’art contemporain de Grenoble, Glarus, Kunsthaus, Zurich, JRP Ringier, 2004.