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.
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.