Jim Shaw’s The End Is Near Marvels At The New Museum


Three years ago Paul McCarthy had that insane, seriously NSFW Snow White installation at the Park Avenue Armory, and the year after that saw McCarthy's longtime running buddy Mike Kelley's huge retrospective at MoMA PS1, a terrific show made tragic by the artist's suicide as it was all coming together. And now Jim Shaw, the third part of that strange, disturbed, and wonderful California crew, the trio who's "movement" was once called "Just Pathetic", has hit town in a big way, with a three-floor exhibition spanning his entire career, The End Is Near at the New Museum. In addition to being one of the most bizarre museum shows I've seen in a long time, it is also among the best.               


Jim Shaw's The End Is Near At The New Museum

Jim Shaw's The End Is Near is neatly divided into three sections, each taking up one of New Museum's floors. Up on four, the smallest of the galleries, though with super high ceilings, you'll find Shaw's staggering series of cut-out sets, the sort of things that might appear at a theatre, but are so crammed filled with competing styles and cultural references–lots of Led Zeppelin icons, for example, and also Caspar the Friendly Ghost, and what seem like Depression-era political cartoon tropes–that you can't imagine what sort of play they'd be used for. A couple of huge "backdrop" canvases complete the installation, which Shaw calls Labyrinth: I Dreamt I Was Taller Than Jonathan Borofsky for reasons I don't understand but whatever, I spent a long time in this room, delightedly discovering all of the oddball layers of imagery in the piece.                       


What To Expect At The New Museum

But if anything, it's Shaw's collections on the third floor that were the highlight of the exhibition for me. Yes, he didn't actually create anything in either of these rooms–one is all thrift store paintings, the other religious and right-wing political materials–but Shaw's doggedness over many years and amazing curatorial eye is the "art". In some ways these rooms are like the craziest, funniest, strangest Tumblr you've ever seen, but taken as a whole it's a good deal better than that as well. Unsurprisingly, the vision of humanity–and, more specifically, of America–presented here is a grim one indeed. Finally, on the New Museum's second floor are Shaw's own paintings and drawings, an enormous amount of material to look through and marvel over, including his epic My Mirage series of drawings covering an astonishing range of styles and emotion. If nothing else, The End Is Near certainly gives you the MOST art for your dollar of any museum this season.    


For More Information On Jim Shaw's The End Is Near

Jim Shaw: The End Is Near will be at the New Museum through January 10. The New Museum is located at 235 Bowery between Stanton and Rivington Streets, and is open on Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., except for Thursdays, when it stays open until 9:00 (and is pay-what-you-wish after 7:00). Lots more information can be found here.  


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