SHAG, Josh Agle (Sierra Madre, California, 1962)
American artist Josh Agle is better known as Shag (an acronym made by combining the last two letters of his first name and the first two of his surname).
Agle studied architecture in the 1980s but later switched to graphic design, becoming a successful commercial illustrator for clients like Time and Forbes and designing album covers for several California bands, including his own. In 1995, Otto von Stroheim—editor of Tiki News and organiser of the Tiki Oasis festival—invited him to contribute a work to a group show in Santa Monica, where it caught the attention of Billy Shire, a collector and owner of La Luz de Jesus Gallery. He participated in a collective exhibition there in 1996, and his artistic career took off. According to Shire, Shag “created what could be called a whole new genre: twenty-first century hipster cool”. He soon became a cult figure and leading exponent of the Lowbrow movement, and over the years he has become a successful artist whose work is collected by Ben Stiller, Whoopi Goldberg and many other Hollywood celebrities and exhibited in the finest galleries of New York, Los Angeles and Sydney.
His prolific work as a commercial illustrator includes a series of paintings commissioned by Disney to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Disney World.
Shag’s art features scenes tinged with irony and mischievous humour, rendered in a distinctive style inspired by the commercial illustrations of the 1950s and 60s. His paintings, with their vivid colours and kitsch aesthetic, are an ode to consumerism and the good life; his characters drink, smoke and eat in stylish, sophisticated settings, in houses designed by Richard Neutra or John Lautner and furnished by Eames, Eero Saarinen, Arne Jacobson and George Nelson.
Shag also finds aesthetic and artistic inspiration in early James Bond films, David Bailey’s photographs of “Swinging London” and the work of artists like Robert Williams (founder of Juxtapoz magazine), Keith Haring and Mark Ryden, whom he greatly admires.