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All My Bones Exhibition

Shag’s fifth solo exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York was held from the 14th May to the 6th June 2015. The exhibition is named All My Bones, from Psalm 22 of the Old Testament which starts “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”. Verse 14 states “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within me”, and verse 17 continues “I can count all my bones; they look, they stare at me”. The narrative for the paintings is inspired by a book of old testament stories that Josh Agle read as a child, he recalls “What seemed like straightforward morality plays told in simple language and pictures meant for children turned out to be complex, grotesque and ethically confusing stories when I read them in the Bible as I got older”.

The Bible characters are transformed by Shag into the vivid saturated colors that characterize his paintings. The mid-century modern environment encompasses lavish architecture, stunning furniture, sharp clothing, and opulent style to present the subjects in a hedonistic re-telling of the original imagery. As always in Shags work we enter in the middle of a story and have to infer the rest (so excuse my lack of biblical knowledge and please e-mail me with more information!).

The All My Bones exhibition features fifteen original pieces of art and one serigraph print. The largest picture in the exhibition is the impressively sized Dagon’s Pad, an acrylic on canvas painting measuring seventy-three by forty-one inches. Dagon was the Philistine’s chief god, whose worship dates to the third millennium BC. Dagon, the father of fertility god Baal, is the fish god and is represented as half-man and half-fish – as per the central sculpture in Shag’s painting.


Dagon’s Pad
Acrylic on canvas (73″x41″)

In the picture The Most Virtuous Family a selfie is being taken by one of two angels dressed in white, while the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed by the fire and brimstone of God’s wrath. The seated figure is Lot, the two figures in white – angels in the form of men, the two women – Lot’s virgin daughters and the white sculpture Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt after looking back at the city. In Fourth Man on Fire, Daniel is shown outside the lion’s den with King Nebuchadnezzar. In the background, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and the holy presence sit in the furnace with the blazing furnace. The Favorite Son shows Joseph in his coat of many colors.

The Most Virtuous Family
Acrylic on panel (32″x15″)
Fourth Man on Fire
Acrylic on canvas (31″x15″)
The Favorite Son
Acrylic on canvas (28″x18″)

The Most Beautiful Daughters (after Balthus) possibly shows Job with his beautiful daughters Jemima, Keziah, and Keren-Happuch? The painting Macaah and Absolom shows Macaah, the wife of King David, and her third son Absolom. The subject of the eponymous painting The Queen of Sheba came to Jerusalem “with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones” (I Kings 10:2). “Never again came such an abundance of spices” (10:10; II Chron. 9:1–9) as those she gave to Solomon. She came “to prove him with hard questions” which Solomon answered to her satisfaction. They exchanged gifts, after which she returned to her land [source – Wikipedia]

The Most Beautiful Daughters (after Balthus)
Acrylic on panel (24″x15″)
Macaah and Absalom
Acrylic on panel (24″x14″)
The Queen of Sheba
Acrylic on panel (28″x14″)

Jezebel of Sidon reclines alongside cats in Ahab’s Wife and in Ethbaal’s Daughter. Jezebel was the daughter of King Ithobaal I (Ethbaal) of Sidon, and the wife of King Ahab of Israel. The Endless Staircase shows angels traversing Jacob’s ladder, the connection between earth and heaven.

Ahab’s Wife
Acrylic on panel (15″x10″)
Ethbaal’s Daughter
Acrylic on panel (15″x10″)
The Endless Staircase
Acrylic on canvas (24″x17″)

The Golden Calf shows the idol made by the Israelites during Moses’ time up Mount Sinai. In David and Bathsheba, we see Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, being lusted over by (her future husband) King David.

The Golden Calf
Acrylic on panel (12″x24″)
Sea Bath
Acrylic on panel (14″x24″)

The old testament has several ‘false gods’, including Ashtoreth, Baal, Chemosh and Dagon. These false gods are worshiped by the people of Cannaan and the surrounding nations, but are seen in the bible as ‘demons’. The final series of three paintings Woman with False Idol I, Woman with False Idol II, and Woman with False Idol III show women and cats alongside false idols, residing in mid-modern century settings.

Woman with False Idol I
Acrylic on panel (11″x8″)

Woman with False Idol II
Acrylic on panel (11″x8″)

Woman with False Idol III
Acrylic on panel (11″x8″)

The 2013 painting After the Rains was exhibited at Thursday’s Girl, Josh Agle’s fourth solo exhibition at the Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York. A limited-edition fourteen-color hand-pulled serigraph of this painting was made available at this fifth solo exhibition, All My Bones. The one hundred copies of the print were sized sixteen by twenty-four inches, hand-signed and numbered, and supplied with a certificate of authenticity.


After the Rains
14 color serigraph on two-ply museum board (16″x24″)
Limited edition of 100 with CoA

The show postcard for All My Bones is of the Dagon’s Pad picture – front and back shown below.

The following eight photographs are of the All My Bones gallery installation and exhibition opening. Note that the majority of the images from this post are sourced from the Jonathan LeVine Gallery website.

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