Jim Shaw, Xerox (1976)
“Mike Kelley, Cary Loren, Niagara and I started the band Destroy All Monsters. I could see that the things I was good at—painting and drawing—were washed up as art forms. I didn’t think of myself as a conceptual artist, so being in a rock & roll band made sense. A lot of people from art schools were making the same decision at the time, like the members of Devo and Talking Heads. Anyway, I’d been working at the student store at the University of Michigan, and they had this Xerox machine overloaded with toner, so copies came out looking almost like etchings. I used it when I started making these ads for Destroy All Monsters. I cut up old magazines and collaged the pieces on the copier. It was free form: I’d move things around and see what worked. They were more like subliminal advertising than announcements, though, since the band hardly ever played. In fact, I never posted any of them.”
An artist who works in a variety of styles and mediums, Jim Shaw is best known for intricate drawings that illustrate his personal life and dreams, as well as his fascination with the fringes of American society. Shaw had been friends with artist Mike Kelley from the time they were both students at the University of Michigan until Kelley’s death in 2012. The two cofounded the alt-rock art band, Destroy All Monsters, and later migrated to Los Angeles, where they attended CalArts for graduate school and established themselves as artists who plumbed the weirdest depths of popular culture. On the occasion of his retrospective at the Lower East Side’s New Museum (one of our top art shows in NYC this fall), we take a look at some of Shaw’s art that touches on themes like religion, politics and pop culture in a selection of works spanning his career.