At Mass MOCA, Jim Shaw Revisits the Old Standards for Art

THE DAILY PIC: The California artist presents "corrected" works by his father.

Jim Shaw: Entertaining Doubts

THE DAILY PIC (#1361): This image is from the Jim Shaw exhibition now at Mass MOCA, in North Adams, MA, but it’s not quite by Shaw. Its bottom layer, in black, is a drawing by Shaw’s father, submitted in the 1950s as an assignment to the Famous Artists School Mail-In Correspondence Course, an institution supported by the likes of Norman Rockwell. The top sheet of tracing paper has the “corrections” to that drawing, done in red, suggested by a teacher at the school. The combination yields a stylish, retro palimpsest that does fine duty as a work of (found) contemporary art by Shaw Jr.

But what really interests me about the piece is how it records possibly the last moment in our visual culture when old-fashioned standards of “correct” art, even in a commercial context, made sense to anyone involved. Today, old man Shaw’s “errors” might very well be seen as better than the corrections layered over them.

I call that progress.

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