JIM SHAW
MONTEZUMA'S REVENGE

Berlin
3 November – 22 December 2007

Praz-Delavallade is pleased to announce the inaugural opening of their new space in Berlin with the exhibition of the Los Angeles-based artist Jim Shaw. “2012, Montezuma's Revenge” is a backdrop painting from the 1930s, showing a slum on San Antonio’s outskirts. On this background, Jim Shaw painted a psychedelic vision of the end of the world.

“This vision was inspired by a combination of various ruminations on the impending end of the present Mayan time cycle, by a trip to Mexico which ended with an amoebic disentary, that is jokingly called ‘Montezuma's Revenge’ and various readings on the rediscovery of psychedelic mushrooms in Mexico that has led to a number of changes in the thinking of some western minds: a possible return of the repressed fungus of religious visions that may have led to our current state of advanced consciousness, as well as to contact with transdimensional intelligences, holes in reality, without forgetting vomiting and diarrhea. “

Jim Shaw mixes events from his life, elements from one of his assistant's dreams (of a landscape with a stylized amoeba and studio assistants in hot air balloons) and any other kinds of experiences which are set on the border of reality, consciousness and our world as we know it. On this immense canvas of 11 m length, Jim Shaw superposes the vision of a miserable America and his own obsessions in which the divinities of the Mayas, the presidents of the US, nuns and extraterrestrial beings, emerging from 1950s comics, merge. If the other backdrops from the series called "Left Behind", are musings on the Christian Apocalyptic world view and its attendant fantasies, this constitutes a vision of a totally new age apocalypse!

Another part of Jim Shaw’s work, probably the most famous and constant one, is the way he uses his dreams as in the well-known series of "Dream Drawings" and "Dream Objects". The artist began to inventory his dreams for several years; then, in 1992, he started a series of pencil drawings based on these dreams (approximately 500 drawings have been made until now). Shaw's dream drawings are accounts of actual nocturnal visions and serve as one of his primary visual sources and inspiration.

Whereas for the surrealists such dream work was an end in itself, for Shaw it serves as a fantastic reservoir of images that allow him to make what is at times a totally unique art. The diary works for Shaw as a source book from which he selects single motives to reproduce as dream objects that are materialized as oil paintings, photos, drawings and sculptures in a significant range of different techniques and dimensions.

The sculpture shown in the exhibition at Praz-Delavallade’s new space in Berlin is a kind of showcase-trap that contains and collects miniature versions of all the dream objects Jim Shaw has made until today. This sculpture is itself a dream object, perhaps one of the last.

Dominating the group of these dream objects, there is the figure of the whore of Babylon riding on the seven-headed, ten-horned Beast of Revelations. “This version in turn was from a psychedelic 60s poster I had as a teenager, long before I knew anything of the Whore of Babylon, that was clipped by Kelley Mouse Studios from some turn of the century decadent art nouveau painting of the sort they loved to "quote". I have never found the original painting and don't know who the artist was. Obviously Babylon is symbolic of the treachery of the material world, and dream objects are quite material: the debris of my personal history.”

As it seemed a shame to keep such beautifully made objects forever unseen, Jim Shaw thought he would let his assistant curate her dream show of miniature dream objects in a fictional museum and document it in a small catalog.

“The image of an effervescent universe, contained with great difficulty with-in limits, could also serve as a metaphor for Jim Shawl whose works are, in some way, the transcription of murky, oneiric depths, rich in images of an America teeming with dreams and nightmares...”

(Jim Shaw, Everything Must Go, exh. cat. MAMCO Genève, Casino Luxembourg 1999/2000.)