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Presidents and snakes as stars and stripes, comic books as fine art – enjoy the first British survey of a uniquely American postmodernist.
Jim Shaw first received mainstream exposure in the UK through Thrift Store, an exhibition of his collection of paintings by unknown amateurs amassed from car boot sales and second-hand stores. Over a decade later, BALTIC hosts the first British survey of Shaw's own work, from corrupted flags to imaginary novels.
The show's most narrative-driven work, My Mirage, follows the artist's alter-ego Billy through a troubled middle-American adolescence: a childhood love of comic books, subsequent descent into drug addiction, and ultimate redemption as a reborn Christian.
Dream Drawings, a night-by-night account of Shaw's dreams between 1991 and 2000, provide an exhaustive repository of images and motifs that he would draw upon for his later sculpture series Dream Objects.
What the critics say
There's a lot to be getting on with in Shaw's copious oeuvre, but only so much I can take in a single visit. This is a show to come back to, just like the America that forms his central, complicated subject.