Artist Jim Shaw stuffs American pop culture through the Rinse Cycle

By Adrian Searle

Shaw’s frontier spirit leads him on, even into the nether regions of his own autobiography. My Mirage, a series of drawings, paintings and text pieces from 1986-91, tells the story of Shaw’s alter ego Billy via spoof comic-book pages, versions of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and Grateful Dead album art. Magritte and Tom of Finland are in there too, with literary parodies of William Burroughs and Ian Fleming (a page from a James Bond novel called Manlicker), all done at a high level of pastiche.

Billy does drugs, sex, cults – the whole panoply of far-out American life – and finds redemption in religion of a sort. It is a very American story, told with wit and terrifying leaps in style and layers of complexity (it’s like early Thomas Pynchon in its sweep).