Jim Shaw, The Ties That Bind, 2017
Jim Shaw: The Ties That Bind
Feb 9 – May 19, 2024
M HKA / Museum of Contemporary Art Antwerp
Antwerp, Belgium

The M HKA presents a major solo exhibition featuring one of the most influential artists in the United States: Jim Shaw. His idiosyncratic imagery is infused with references from popular American culture. In recent decades, his body of work has increasingly highlighted the growing tension between conservative and progressive ideologies. The Ties That Bind brings to light the core motifs of Shaw’s practice, presenting his latest work alongside a selection of earlier works.

Since the late 1970s, Jim Shaw has been developing a complex and exciting body of work that includes photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, installations, films, and musical performances. Popular cultural formats such as comics, Hollywood films and caricatures constitute an essential part of his work, as do religion, folk beliefs, leisure culture and amateur arts. His profound critical exploration of the construction of values and beliefs is complemented by an incredibly rich visual imagery.

The exhibition The Ties That Bind delves into an artistic journey that, in the last five decades, has not only mirrored the shifts in the American cultural and political landscape but also seems to anticipate them. Jim Shaw, like no other, probes the structures of the various value systems that shape society by immersing himself in the realms of politics, the Hollywood industry, amateur art, and his own dreams. For the very first time, Shaw’s work from the last decade is showcased on a grand scale in his inaugural solo exhibition in Belgium. The internationally acclaimed cult artist is actively participating in the exhibition and is concurrently creating a new large-scale audio-visual work especially for the M HKA.

The exhibition presents drawings, paintings and photographs by Jim Shaw alongside large immersive installations that highlight the artist’s central themes. Hairstyles and wigs, male figures (including self-portraits) or household appliances: these are themes to which Shaw returns almost obsessively throughout his career. The Wig Museum (2017), for example, presented at the M HKA, is showcased as a museum within a museum, in which a collection of wigs worn by historical figures of power – including French aristocrats and British judges – is elegantly displayed. In addition, a selection of over 145 Study Drawings (2013-2023) are presented that provide an overview of the artist’s mental landscape of the last decade. The M HKA is also supporting Shaw in the development of The Electronic Monster and Thirteen Ghosts (2024), a new large-scale audio-visual production.

The Ties That Bind immersers the viewer into Jim Shaw’s allegorical world, where tradition and innovation, pop culture and politics, and social criticism and humour are intricately interwoven.

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