Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jim Shaw at the New Museum

        This world is mine, in time. You best of all of us, Gabriel, should understand ambition.

                                                                              Lucifer/Satan from Constantine (2005)

I am happy to report that an alumnus of degraf/Wahrman (dWi), Jim Shaw, is having a retrospective of his work exhibited at the New Museum in New York (see link below).

I have not one, not two, but at least five friends from the early days of computer animation who are recognized as successful contemporary fine artists to varying degrees. But all of the others are involved in the digital arts in one way or another.  Jim is the only one I know who has achieved his success through what we might call "old media", you know, painting and drawing, with no computers involved.

Of course there were many “artists” who helped found computer animation in the 1970s and 1980s and “art” is one of those culturally laden terms that mean different things to different communities.  Hollywood is particularly fond of giving its own meaning to the term "artist" as is discussed in this post:   What is Meant When it is Said Hollywood Needs Artists    Other types of artists in this world might include production designers, fashion designers, commercial art directors, graphic designers, visual effects supervisors, and so forth.

But we are not talking about that kind of artist, as difficult and competitive as some of those fields are. What we are talking about here is the varsity squad, an artist of the sense of museums, collectors, galleries in NY and London and notices in certain elite magazines.  This is what we might call the :"real" world of fine art.

What you may not be aware of is that this is the dream of so many artists, or at least of people who went to art school, and it is far from easy to achieve. Of 100 talented people who attend art school, how many become recognized artists? Of the people who attend film school, how many become noted directors of film?

But the really disturbing thing is not just that my friend, Jim Shaw, is successful at pretty much exactly what he wanted to achieve back when I knew him in 1980, the really disturbing thing is that he is to have a retrospective one person show.  Retrospective?  I just exchanged email with Jim and he is as always creating new pieces right and left.  Perhaps I am giving too much emphasis  to one meaning of the term "retrospective".

There is much more I could say about Jim Shaw, but I will just mention a few of them here. First, he never secretly aspired to be a commercial art director, or a visual effects supervisor, or anything else but what he did. Second, as long as I have known him, from when I believe he was an assistant art director at Robert Abel & Associates, he was producing his own work every day. Publishing his own books of his artwork. Putting on a Thrift Store Art exhibition. Third, and finally, we hired him at deGraf/Wahrman as an art director for various reasons, but the most important one to me was that it would help him make a living while he was building his career as a fine artist.

I haven't talked to him for about 20 years but I recently exchanged email with him courtesy of John Nelson (I had had trouble tracking Jim down).   Not only is he doing well, but he has a life, apparently, and has been married for over 20 years.  Amazing.

Information about his show in New York is at

His public statement from the Thrift Store Art exhibit is here:

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