Defying critical characterization and classification for the bulk of their careers, artists Jim Shaw and Peter Saul have continually pushed the art of figurative drawing in new directions. Exploring the multi-generational impact of these two artists, curator Klaus Kertess has brought the two artists together at Mary Boone New York to exhibit a selection of their works on paper. Bringing the subconscious to the forefront of the viewer’s attention, the artists’ show is packed with images of altered realities, presented in their trademark styles.
Peter Saul has been making attention-grabbing paintings with bright hues and expertly composed visions of political and pop-culture subject matter since the 60’s. His work is often controversial: weighty historical events and popular figures pumped with explosive and unthinkable actions. Saul’s figures are absurd and perverse, enhanced by day-glo colors and oozing violence and sex, but beneath the apparent appeal to the lowbrow, there is a potent undercurrent of truth running through them, a beauty in the grotesque through which the artist illuminates sentiments of our collective memory.
Mother of God (2012) for instance, shows an infantile God depicted as a duck sitting on the lap of his duck mother cupping her exposed breast in his hand. While haloes hover over both heads, God punctures an approaching plane with cartoon explosion, while his mother, looks on in devil horns and pitchfork. The political and religious implications here are volatile, but balanced out with a bizarre, juvenile rendering that keeps the work informed by a healthy sense of humor.
Jim Shaw’s practice is eccentric and wide ranging, embracing a multitude of mediums and approaches from a myriad of sources. Pulling from American subcultures, pop culture, art history, comic books, and his own unconscious, the artist pieces together fragments of everyday life to create surreal landscapes of the human mind. For this show, Kertess has invited Shaw to show a selection of “dream drawings” that the artist has been making since the 90’s. The lightly penciled dream documentations are drafted on paper using the vernacular logic of the surrealist dream image, and laid out in the structure of a comic book page.
These elusive images leave room for the viewer’s mind to make correlations between the images and their own logical or illogical connections. These original dream drawings were also the basis for Shaw’s later “dream objects” sculptures, life sized realizations of objects from his dreams.
While Jim Shaw cleanly transcribes his unconscious at work, Peter Saul grotesquely projects the collective id. Either way, both artists’ conscious documentations of the intricate processes of the human mind make for a compelling comparison of their respective practices.
Jim Shaw – Dream Object (For Some Reason, I Wanted) (1999), via Mary Boone