Jim Shaw

Biography of Jim Shaw

The astonishing versatility of American artist Jim Shaw has made him a cult figure revered the world over, his reputation continuing to grow and grow. Mining the lower end of American culture, Shaw finds inspiration for his work in pulp novels, comic books, and posters.


In 2000 Jim Shaw famously exhibited his Thrift Store Paintings at the ICA in London —paintings which he had collected together from a diverse array of amateur artists. Critics were divided and many reviewers were largely dumbfounded by the show, finding it dreadful but somehow terrifying. With an endlessly inventive comic twist, a typical Shaw exhibition can be a mind-blowing collision of Pop Art, Conceptualism, cartoons, psychedelic posters, and kitsch illustrations. Working in a variety of different formats, the artist can be hilarious, shocking, and political all at once.


Born in 1952, Shaw has made use of his personal life in his work, inserting passages from conversations with friends, pop culture imagery as well as segments of alternate realities into his work. Shaw was also the co-founder of the protopunk band Destroy all Monsters that he started with fellow artist Mike Kelley and filmmaker Cary Loren in 1973. In addition, the artist is the only begetter of O-ism, his own and highly unusual Religious practice. Here Shaw finds inspiration from the Messianic cults that are still active in America today. He has prepared and presented exhibitions centered around O-ism at the Magasin, Centre National d'Art Contemporain, Grenoble in France and also in the Kunsthaus Glarus situated in Switzerland. In 2012-13 Shaw was honored with his first UK retrospective at the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, England and in 2015-16 he had a major exhibition entitled Jim Shaw: The End is Here at the New Museum in New York.

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