Jim Shaw (b. 1952, Midland, Michigan) calls himself a “conceptual illustrator” both to deflate the pretentions that often accompany high-minded conceptual art and to insist that illustration, usually treated as a lowly, commercial endeavor, can, because of its underdog position, accomplish more than might be expected. That is what happens in Shaw’s works, many of which illustrate what he saw in his dreams. From 1992 to 1999 he made drawings of his dreams, fastidiously recording, in pencil on paper, the nighttime adventures on which his unconscious took him. Since 1995, Shaw has been making paintings and sculptures based on those drawings, transforming the perplexing, nonsensical, and unbelievable stories recorded there into multilayered, multifaceted, and multidimensional works whose surfaces are festooned with all manner of imagery, in an impressive inventory of media, including graphite, ink, acrylic, spray-paint, and photo transfers. The topsy-turvy world that takes shape captures the unreality of contemporary reality. Making not-so-strange bedfellows of conspiracy theorizing and fact-based reportage, Shaw’s eccentrically visionary pictures combine paranoia and objectivity in ways that are absurd and accurate, preposterous and true.

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