SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO — Eight Modern is pleased to announce its upcoming exhibition, Roger Shimomura: An American Knockoff.
Shimomura’s exhibition probes what it means to be an “other” in America, presenting fourteen paintings (all self-portraits) that skillfully blend anger and absurdity. Shimomura’s work draws heavily on his own experiences as an Asian American – in which he is often perceived and treated as a foreigner in his own country.
In An American Knockoff, the artist surrounds himself with or subsumes his own likeness into iconic representations of American and Asian popular culture. Shimomura’s distinctive round glasses and salt-and-pepper goatee appear incongruously on the famous visages of cartoon mice, pigs and crime-fighters. Frequently misidentified as Chinese, in “Chinese Imposter #5” the Japanese American paints himself as a muscular Chinese revolutionary off of a propaganda poster.
Shimomura was born and raised in Seattle. During World War II, he was held for two years at the Minidoka internment camp, one of 10 built to confine American citizens of Japanese descent. He went on to earn degrees from Washington (B.A.) and Syracuse (M.F.A.). Since 1969, he has resided in Lawrence, Kansas, where he taught at the University of Kansas for 35 years.
“Since living in Kansas, I have found it to be routine to be asked what part of Japan I am from, or how long I have lived in this country,” Shimomura said. “Just as common, subtle references continue to connect me to stereotypical ‘oriental’ traits, both physical and behavioral.”
“Far too many American-born citizens of Asian descent continue to be thought of as only ‘American knockoffs.’ This latest series of paintings is an attempt to ameliorate the outrage of these misconceptions by depicting myself battling those stereotypes or, in tongue-in-cheek fashion, becoming those very same stereotypes.”
Using a characteristic style that fuses American Pop art and ukiyo-e imagery, Shimomura has focused particular attention on the experience of Asian Americans and the challenges of being “different” in America. In his words, he seeks to “address sociopolitical issues of ethnicity.” His work resides in 85 museum collections worldwide, and he has received more than 30 grants, had more than 130 solo exhibitions and lectured at more than 200 universities. His personal papers are being collected by the Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian Institution.