Richard Shaw @b.sakata garo
By David Roth, Squarecylinder
Is there anything Richard Shaw can’t realistically depict in porcelain? There doesn’t appear to be.
Shaw, who, along with Robert Hudson, invented trompe-l'oeil ceramic sculpture in the early 1970s,
continues to build lanky figures and studio tableaux out of objects that are cast and painted to look
like brushes, paint tubes, bottles, palettes, kitchenware, clothing, books, playing cards, musical
instruments, tools, writing implements, plumbing fixtures, furniture and foodstuffs. Fashioned into
assemblages, they stand as prime examples of Funk, the movement that briefly tilted the “axis of cultural
authority” toward Northern California and, in particular, toward UC Davis, where Shaw studied, and where
two of his instructors, William Wiley and Robert Arneson, built careers out of smashing formalist orthodoxies.
|"Painters Table", glazed porcelain with overglaze transfers
Shaw developed his own vocabulary. Besides painting cast objects to look like dead-on replicas
, he also created decals that depict brand-name logos and graphics. These, when applied to ceramics,
added a layer of verisimilitude that made the artist’s neo-Dadaist illusions complete. After more than
four decades, this ingenious blend of trompe-l’oeil and photorealism continues to fascinate by thoroughly
confusing the fake and the real.
In this realm Shaw has only one peer, Marilyn Levine, and her focus is considerably narrower: suitcases and
leather goods. Shaw’s purview, as this beautifully installed exhibit of 22 recent works attests, is substantially
larger. It ranges from the above-described assemblages to more esoteric forms, such as two framed pieces of
faux cardboard packaging emblazoned with the words “Bray Clay,” and a quartet of unlabeled “paintings” displayed
face down on a table – potential sleepers for those unfamiliar with Shaw’s brand of trickery.
While plaintive titles (e.g. “Still Life with Ink and Skull,” “Still Life with Open Drawer,” “Walker with Cigar Box,”
“Walking Figure with Pitcher) describe what we see, what we experience is the subversive glee that comes
from contemplating the ways in which Shaw combines so many unlikely objects into gawky stick figures.
As for the other half of his practice – the studio tableaux – each of these traces “storylines” in which
the mundane facts of the artist’s work life – brushes, paint cans, watercolors and pencils – take on an
almost mythological character for having been repeated so often and with such fiendish attention to detail.
If you’ve not had the Richard Shaw experience, this exhibition is a prime opportunity. .
WHERE: b. sakata garo, 923 20th St.
WHEN: Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays,through November 29
INFORMATION: (916) 447-4276