Jim Shaw (artist)

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Horror a Vacui #45, ink on canvas by Shaw, 1991, Honolulu Museum of Art

Jim Shaw (born 1952) is a contemporary American artist.


Shaw received his B.F.A. from University of Michigan in 1974 and his M.F.A. from the California Institute of the Arts in 1978.[citation needed]


Shaw is the creator of O-ism, an American religion supposedly said to originate at the same time as Mormonism in the 19th century. Its theology centers on a goddess who may not be named and who is referred to only as O. In 2002, Shaw presented an exhibition at the Swiss Institute in New York[1] in which he installed the studio and paintings of the fictitious O-ist painter Adam O. Goodman (who was said to have used the pseudonym Archie Gunn).[2] The installation included a massive set of file cabinets housing Gunn's collection of reference imagery, mostly taken from commercial publications of various kinds. More O-ist works were exhibited later in 2003-2004 at the Magasin, Centre National d’Art Contemporain, Grenoble, France and Kunsthaus Glarus, Switzerland.

Art exhibitions[edit]

In 2000, Shaw staged a show at the ICA, London, of Thrift Store Paintings—paintings he had collected by (mostly anonymous) amateur artists in America. Some reactions to this show included Adrian Searle of The Guardian stating "The paintings are awful, indefensible, crapulous…", "these people can't draw, can't paint; these people should never be left alone with a paintbrush", and "The Thrift Store Paintings are fascinating, alarming, troubled and funny. Scary too, just like America."[3] For Sarah Kent of Time Out: "Critics professing to be gobsmacked by these efforts can never have seen an amateur art show or walked along the railings of the Bayswater road. They should get out more."[3] In 1999-2000, Shaw had his first major European retrospective touring at the Casino Luxembourg and at the MAMCO in Geneva.

In 2012–13, Shaw exhibited his first UK retrospective at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England.[4]

In 2013–14, Chalet Society,[5] Paris invited Shaw to exhibit his collection of Didactic Art. Entitled The Hidden World, this exhibition presented a rich universe composed of books, flyers, T-shirts, vinyls, and other illustrations with didactic intentions, that recycled American myths and beliefs and revealed an astounding archive of contemporary imagination. These unclassifiable works were produced by mostly anonymous artists for specific commissions by religious denominations, not so secret societies, far-fetched orders and fraternities, conspiracy theorists of all kinds, children’s encyclopedias, and medical books.[6]

In March 2015, Shaw's Entertaining Doubts opened at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass Moca).

From October 2015 to January 2016, Jim Shaw: The End is Here, the first New York survey exhibition of his work, exhibited at the New Museum.[7]

In May 2017, Shaw debuted The Wig Museum,[8] a sprawling solo exhibition that was an inaugural show at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles. The Maricano Art Foundation is situated in a renovated Scottish Rite Masonic Temple, and Shaw's work made extensive use of theatrical backdrops from the Temple, combining them with his own paintings and sculptures.

In October 2020, the artist's solo exhibition at Simon Lee Gallery in London looked to the American political arena, with works combining pop cultural references.[9]


As an art student in Ann Arbor, he helped form the protopunk group Destroy All Monsters along with Mike Kelley, Niagara and filmmaker Cary Loren in 1973. He left the band in 1976 and played with the original line up in reunion shows in 1995.

Shaw's The Great Whatsit (2017) was used for the cover art for Oneohtrix Point Never's Age Of (2018).


  1. ^ "SI Exhibitions - Jim Shaw". www.swissinstitute.net.
  2. ^ "The O-ist painter Adam O. Goodman is known for a body of large color-field paintings that infuse modernism with O-ist spirituality. Unrecognized in his own lifetime, Goodman earned his living as an illustrator under the pseudonym Archie Gunn". Archived from the original on 2014-05-25. Retrieved 2014-05-24.
  3. ^ a b "What the Critics Say – Jim Shaw at the ICA", newsletter 2, artrumour.com, October 23, 2000 Archived October 25, 2006, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved March 28, 2006.
  4. ^ Searle, Adrian. (8 November 2012) "Artist Jim Shaw stuffs American pop culture through the Rinse Cycle". Guardian. Retrieved 24 November 2012.
  5. ^ "Chalet Society". chaletsociety.org (in French).
  6. ^ "Aesthetica Magazine - Jim Shaw: Archives, Chalet Society, Paris". Aesthetica Magazine.
  7. ^ "Jim Shaw: The End is Here". www.newmuseum.org.
  8. ^ "Jim Shaw: The Wig Museum". Marciano Art Foundation. Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  9. ^ "'We'll see what the hell happens': Jim Shaw on Politics and Pop Culture in the U.S." ocula.com. 2020-11-25. Retrieved 2020-11-25.

External links[edit]