Tim Shaw: Beyond Reason at SDMA
Just in case you haven’t made it yet… exhibition closes February 24, 2019.
A six-installation exhibition of Tim Shaw’s work is currently on view at the San Diego Museum of Art. Dubbed by the museum’s press as “an exploration of global terrorism, freedom of speech, and artificial intelligence as expressed through six thought-provoking installations”. The exhibit opened to the public October 20, 2018 and has been on view since the end of the year. Shaw’s first museum exhibition in the United States highlights his intellectual talents along with the artist’s engaging body of work. Beyond Reason focuses on somber themes such as terrorism and abuse of power, yet its presentation is forged with an almost inquisitive and darkly insightful approach that instills a desire for independent exploration of the subject matter. It is this persistent addressing of challenging or deeper issues that leaves one enjoying the exhibition for both the emotive nature of the themes as well as the brilliantly immersive installations.
In a statement at the opening reception Shaw mentioned that he has only visited the US on two previous occasions, one of which was in 1978 when he visited SDMA in its earlier days. Interestingly, it was this year the institution gained its emblematic title as a museum; previously it was called the Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. This nod to his early visit makes me think that, the entirety of the experience has come full circle for the artist, as this is his first major solo US show. Talking more about the exhibition and it’s themes, he added that “we must not let politicians lead the way without consensual agreement”. A point that could not be more perfectly highlighted by the times we find ourselves in. It is this penetrative, yet required insightfulness that makes Shaw’s exploration of the subjects at hand that much more pervasive. Isn’t it time for us to ask what are we doing and if our actions truly impact our consequences?
One of the more personal pieces on view, “Mother, the Air is Blue, the Air is Dangerous”, was first conceptualized by Shaw in 2014 for an artist residency in Athens. This powerful installation reimagines an experience from the artist’s own dealings with terrorism, re-creating events from the period in Northern Ireland known as the “Troubles”. In particular, the scene focuses on an event in which he and his family were caught in the chaotic frenzy that ensued during an IRA bombing in Belfast. As Shaw states, ‘The installation recounts an early life experience of sitting in a restaurant in Belfast when a bomb explodes nearby creating pandemonium. Chairs, tables, old clothes and shoes are scattered across the floor of a fabricated space. Slow moving shadows of people running are cast upon walls; dinner trays revolve through the air filled with haze, and the whirling sound of many sirens radiate from the corners of the room.’ The installation presents the scene from the perspective of the victims; there is chaos, frenzy, and an unsettling panic that is felt in the energy of the space.
With “Middleworld”, Shaw offers up his sculptural talents through a variety of figures ranging from vulcan bombers to christian symbols. He began the piece in 1989 and has been adding to it ever since, a living, evolving work in progress. The monolithic piece stands at well over 9’+ tall (3 meters), displaying an elaborately complex vessel that it is reminiscent of old adobe sculptures. It’s main component is built of cast steel with reinforced concrete finishing, and it currently has over 70 additional individual figurine size bronze and terracotta sculptures installed on its surface. The base is also intriguing as it encompasses a series of stalactite like formations that seem to almost be oozing from the sculpture, it is such a visceral connection to limbo that you begin to think about life, death and everything in between.
As director Roxana Velasquez so judiciously stated, “We are uncomfortable with the physical darkness but perhaps more frightened by the shadows of our own ethical consciousness. Are we provoked enough to take an active position? Or will we remain indifferent. That choice defines our humanity.” Beyond Reason implores viewers to look, explore, and possibly choose.
Image (s) Copyright 2019 © Tim Shaw and San Diego Museum of Art
1450 El Prado. Balboa Park, San Diego, CA
M-Sa (closed Weds) 10-5, Su 12-5: Art After Hours, $5 Fridays until 8pm
• Members / Free
• College Students, full time with ID** / $8
• Seniors, 65 and older with ID / $10
• Military, active, retired with ID / $10
• Adults / $15