Red Star, Black Eye

Shag continues down a darker path and palette with his 45th solo exhibit, Red Star, Black Eye. Interestingly, Last Days of Magic in early 2009 was in some ways his last days of what we’ve come to know as classic “Shag.” Much of the mid-century interiors and tiki culture are gone, being replaced with a muted dark landscape of meandering rivers, lifeless trees, insects and children in less vibrant colors.

Red Star, Black Eye is Shag’s second 2010 solo exhibit, and is a transition from his show earlier this year in Brazil, An Exquisite Hunger, as seen in the transition between I Will and Black Eyes. While Shag delves deeper into dark dreamscapes, he has revived one of his oldest subject matters, Shriners. They were first portrayed in 1996 in his work Wives with Knives, one of his all-time classics. Shriners, (the ancient Arabic order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine) have long been portrayed in Shag paintings and can be found in works like Satan’s Minions Driven from Shrine Azan and The Defiant Shriner. Shriners date back to 1870 and started as a new fraternity for Masons that focused on fun and fellowship.

Like with Shag’s past several exhibits, Red Star, Black Eye features two large 36×72 inch landscape digital works on canvas that flow from one to the other. He also again paints smaller close up details on framed panels of what can be found in the larger canvas works. Shag has long been known for framing his work in classic black frames with brightly complimentary colored linen matting. However, he has recently changed it up to something a bit more striking – white linen with a more ornate black frame. In this exhibit, though, Shag has highlighted his originals in broad gold leaf frames, something quite different from nearly all the other 1000+ original paintings he’s done in his career.

The exhibit’s title speaks of the mini-car driving Shriners themselves, donned in fezzes with red stars, and each sporting a “black eye.” For those that want to experience a Shag Shriner in an added dimension, there’s a limited edition vinyl figure of the “Shriner” by Josh Agle, a unique addition to the solo exhibit and already sold out.

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3 Responses to “Red Star, Black Eye”

  1. Scott Shaughnessy Says:

    I had the chance to see Shag’s new work at Corey Helford gallery a months back. I was impressed with the larger digital prints, they really were statement pieces. The orginals paintings have so many vibrant colors. I didn’t really know what to think of the new Shag pieces…however, after looking at the pieces at Red Star, Black Eye and Exquisite Hunger I am not sure I really like them. You can see a glimpse of the old Shag in the pieces mixed with a strong messages within. I respect what Josh is doing and how he needed another direction however, I feel he might lose a portion of his fans. Ive noticed that all his older artist proof prints are selling out at these shows however, most of the originals and large digital prints seem to available which has been common in the past 10 years of Shag shows.

  2. pjk Says:

    Having seen the new direction starting off in Autumn’s Come Undone, and continuing through Red Star Black Eye, it seems like Shag’s dealing with some pretty depressing themes. Maybe this is the counterpoint to the drunken hedonism of the earlier work? I personally prefer the earlier work (just picked up a print of The Relentless Party), and while I find the new direction interesting in terms of “trying to figure it out”, I prefer to spend time with the former. It is much more fun to dance at the party than to be there in the morning dealing with the pain and bleakness of the hangover.

  3. Mark Says:

    The one male figure sitting at the table with the female in the foreground of the landscape with the children in “sky cages” looks like a direct reference to the child-catcher character from “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

    As the two previous posters have noted, I find the new work interesting, but I want to look at [more] worrisome and depressing images about as much as I want to drink sour milk.

    I applaud Shag for his “awakening” and new direction,
    and as an artist, there is always the mantle of creating
    commentary and dialog about the state of the world,
    but I will stick to purchasing “Classic Shag” images for
    my collection. I suspect many other collectors will, too.

    In recent years, he may have started feeling like he was an indentured servant painting the in the previous “classic Shag” style,
    but the value of being able to gaze upon his former style
    and allowing folks a moment to smile and laugh
    and forget their worries for the moments they looked
    upon the Shag serigraphs hanging on their walls
    is not as merit-less as he now appears to believe.

    Yes, Shag’s former work “celebrates consumerism,”
    but it also told funny stories through its implied narratives
    and reminded us of images that many of us seemed to have already
    seen in our childhoods. That is not without its value.
    That is not without a statement about our yearning to return
    to childhood and its simplicity in these times of high-unemployment,
    poverty, terrorism, and childhood lost.

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