SHAG: The Last Days of Magic


 Shag: The Last Days of Magic is Josh Agle’s first 2009 exhibit, featuring 12 new originals paintings. The exhibit opened Friday, Feb. 13 at M Modern Gallery in Palm Springs, California.

Shag brings us his 43rd solo exhibit and his third at M Modern Gallery. Shag’s first Palm Spring show, A Gracious Oasis (2005), introduced 10 originals, all in true “Desert Modern” style. The exhibit included one of his largest paintings at the time, Palm Springs After Dark. His second exhibit, The Immoderates (2007), continued the “Desert Modern” style with 12 new original paintings that incorporated a wide variety of animals into the mix. In The Immoderates, Shag brought us an even larger work, this time on canvas, The Faux Pas, which measured more than eight feet wide.

This time, Shag brings us 12 original works, filled with palm readings, tarot cards, crystal balls, Ouija boards, spells and voodoo dolls. Each of the magic-themed paintings share a common similarity – a modern rock wall interior with a large floor to ceiling window, opening up to an outdoor pool, with the silhouette of the palm desert in the background. Inside, there are various acts of magic taking place and the ever-popular black cat (a classic Shag element) to witness it all.

The choice of color in this series is a bit different from nearly every other Shag exhibit of the past. The creative use of white brings a dramatic punch to the other colors. It also is the predominant hair color of most of the female characters.  In Practical Magic, you may notice it’s the only painting where the cat beams bright orange eyes, perfectly matching the cool shades of one of the guests. The use of color in this painting is truly superb. The use of orange, white and blue pop dramatically off the various shades of purple. The painting is finished off wonderfully with the anchoring quality of deep black.  Another interesting element in the series is the blend of interior styles. Much of the interiors are true mid-century modern – the rock walls, the floor to ceiling windows, the mid-century Eames-like seating. However, Shag has uniquely placed some rather traditional, ornate pieces into the scene, including a very Victorian hand-tufted high back chair in Burning Boyfriends. The boys in Tarot Twins are sitting on what could be the matching sofa. And in my favorite painting of the 12, Practical Magic, there is a rather traditional chandelier over the table where four people are working on a spell from their very mid-century orange chairs.

You may be surprised to learn that while modern interiors are a favorite of Shag’s, if he were to move out of his mid-century modern home, his next might actually be more of the 1940’s Hollywood starlet-type, with swag drapes with golden tiebacks. He’s even stated his next home might include a mix of modernist with Greek and Roman elements, maybe similar to The Crystal Ball.

It’s interesting to see the evolution of style and technique over the past decade. Ten years ago, Shag held his Dial H for Hispter show in Melbourne, Australia. Shag’s style was a bit more two dimensional, not yet as architectural, but as much as ever, uniquely stylized and uniquely Shag. Crisp lines, characters reminiscent of a Ward Kimball animation short, and an ever-present, out of place surprise. Take Noise from the Basement (shown above) for example – tired parents, (alarmed by an unknown “noise from the basement”), roll out of bed, venture down the stairs, shotgun in hand, just to discover their son, eagerly banging away on a set of bongos. Like many Shag paintings, there’s often an element of surprise. Take the devilish figure for example, not part of this world, but clearly part of the distressful scene. Is it nothing more than a representation of a son who clearly has complete disregard to his parents rest and sanity, wickedly jamming away regardless of the consequences? Or is it a bit more literal, clear surprise, distress and appall to find a son hanging out with the ultimate bad influence? As with most Shag paintings, it’s left to the interpretation of the one viewing it, and Shag rarely will explain the true meaning.

Shag’s popularity continues to gain momentum in the mainstream. In 2003, Shag was invited by Disney to create paintings to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. In 2005, he was commissioned again to create original works to commemorate Disney’s 50th Anniversary, painting new interpretations of the five Original Lands posters. This year, he will be releasing 13 original works to celebrate the Haunted Mansion’s 40th Anniversary at Disneyland.

The new exhibit coincides with Palm Spring’s 2009 Modernism Week, and is one of several events that kick off the nine day event. It’s no coincidence that Shag will be exhibiting. His style has always had elements of modernism, especially within the detail of lighting and furniture. More recently, the architectural elements within his works exemplify modernism. Check out some select modernism-influenced works by Shag here.


2 Responses to “SHAG: The Last Days of Magic”

  1. Jules Says:

    I atteneded this event, and it was my first Shag event ever. I had a great time, meeting other Shag fans, and getting to talk to the man for an hour myself. The collection was amazing, i wish I could have bought all of them, but I’m just fine with my signed lunchbox ^_^. Hopefully, I can attend more events in the future.

  2. Christine WHite Says:


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