Animal Kingdom

With nearly 50 solo exhibits spanning two decades, Shag returns with his 49th solo exhibition, Animal Kingdom, at Corey Helford Gallery in Los Angeles. The show is a striking contrast from his last exhibit there, Autumn’s Come Undone, which was also his first at CHG.

There’s a noticeable upbeat change in both the color schemes and subject matter from the darker shift that happened over the last two years. “Colors have become more radiant, and the men and women in the paintings seem happier and more satisfied in their hedonistic lifestyles,” according to Agle.

After a life-threatening accident in 2010, Agle took time off to recover. While public exposure to new works was kept under wraps throughout the year, Agle continued to paint, and it was during May’s Kentucky Derby that the show title Animal Kingdom was born. “I heard that a Thoroughbred named Animal Kingdom had won the Kentucky Derby. Since the painting I was working on had a horse in it, and all the paintings for the exhibit featured animals, it seemed to sum up the body of work I was making.”  Each of the paintings in the exhibit feature people in various animal costumes. What inspired Shag was a 1970s sewing pattern for an animal costume where different animal features like tails and ears could be swapped out to make different customs. According to Agle, the costumes in the paintings, in a way, represent the individual’s persona.

As with most Shag paintings, there’s some sort of story unfolding, but until now, Shag has never given any hint to what’s actually happening. However, prior to the images being posted, he secretly placed hidden links on his website to describe the individual stories within. In his largest work, Predators and Prey, (nearly three feet tall and eight feet wide) all of the lioness women are in feline costumes, and each of the men are wearing the antlers of prey. Seemingly festive in typical mid-century décor, Shag describes what’s about to take place. “Soon the gorgeous furniture, the lime green carpeting, the sculptures and the paintings will be covered in gore. The indoor rivers and fountains will turn pink from the blood of the helpless prey, who will have met their demises willingly, slightly tipsy from screwdrivers and Vodka Tonics.”

Shag admits sometimes peoples ideas of what’s happening within his works are sometimes more exciting than what he was thinking when it was painted.

In Riding Crop, what’s about to unfold is actually more PG-13 than the much more explicit undertones that some envision. “Both girls eyed the riding crop – they knew one of them would be forced to use it soon. They were strict vegetarians, and detested animal cruelty of any kind, but sometimes there came a point when violence was the only solution.”

Animal Kingdom will be on view through March 3, 2012. However, if you don’t live near Los Angeles, don’t worry, rumor has it he might have an exhibit later this year in Australia.

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