Roger Shimomura

Roger Shimomura was born in 1939. He was delivered by his grandmother who was a specialized nurse midwife. He went to Coleman School, Washington Middle School and Garfield High School before he graduated from University of Washington with a bachelor's in fine arts in 1961. In between, he spent time inside an internment camp and, for a short time, stayed within Chicago. After two years of military commitment and a few years as a freelance graphic designer, Roger joined masters of fine arts at the University of Washington within the mid 1960s.

Roger Shimomura lest Seattle in 1967 and transferred to Syracuse University, where he got an MFA in 1969. He then enrolled at the University of Kansas fines arts faculty after graduating. 1n 1994, Roger Shimomura was among the only nine faculties on the whole campus to be prompted to "distinguished professor: an academic position superior than the popular 'full professor." (Shimomura 5-8). Roger Shimomura paints racist events from the racist's point of view. His cold, flat style; a blend of American Pop and Japanese ukiyo-e or "floating world" graphics, gets inside his focus on racism and offers it a deadpan edge.

Roger Shimomura is a respected professor but he insists that he is not trying to teach people. His art is accessible, yet it communicates complex messages. His art features bright colors even though they express extremely dark topics. Dichotomy as well as intricacy marks the career of Seattle native Roger Shimomura. They also demonstrate and describe his present art exhibit, "Stereotypes and Admonitions," a 30-piece collection of acrylic on canvas that illustrates racially insensitive events. The exhibit is featured at the Greg Kucera within Seattle's Pioneer Square currently through 27th March. Determined to prosper in a multicultural society, Shimomura likes the metaphor of a tossed-salad better than a melting pot. Nothing about him has melted, and that includes his memories. They are the basis of his current show, but they do not shape its content (Greg 32-36).

Reminiscing regarding racism; Roger's art can be uncomfortable but life changing as well. Roger addresses the regular subject of racial insensitivity. In his art work, "Do You Speak English?" Roger remembers the summer 2001 racial profiling event whereby a Seattle police officer verbally harassed a group of Asian American youths. The youths were harassed verbally, patted down and asked, "Don't you know how to cross the street?" "Do you speak English?" "Are you foreigners?" This illustrated highest level of racism since they were being harassed and asked such humiliating questions because they were Asian Americans (Shimomura 12-18).

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Another incident where Roger Shimomura's work addressed racism is where he pained a picture regarding racism he faced while in high school and dating a girlfriend from a different race (white). The girl was from West Seattle and her father did not want her dating Shimomura since he was not a white; West Seattle was well known for racism. Shimomura painted a cool, Roy Lichtenstein blonde snuggling up to a yellow-skinned demon that licked her with a huge tongue, a shotgun at his back. He painted himself as "the Jap" the father saw. This painting depicted racism he himself experienced at some point while still young (Greg 18-22).

In "Stereotypes and Admonitions," Shimomura addresses the common uncomfortable subject of racial insensitivity with full-color accessible pieces. Shimomura packs detailed images and complex stories into a tight format. All the paintings share similar space and billing on the gallery walls. Roger Shimomura's "Stereotypes and Admonitions," is a strong, poignant exhibition applicable to audiences far broader than just those characteristically interested in contemporary art. Conceivably, it is the sort of extensively accessible but content-rich show all citizens would do well to see, consider and discuss.

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The exhibition illustrates the most recent demonstration of Shimomura's current exploration of his identity as a third-generation Japanese-American. Shimomura is a respected art professor at the University of Kansas. He is globally renowned for paintings as well as performances that skillfully yet unabashedly confront the prejudices in addition to misperceptions that continue to accompany "difference" within our society (Shimomura 42-44). "If the art is accessible, hopefully people won't walk away," Shimomura reasons. "You have to hook them in some kind of way. If I can interest people in any kind of way, it's a small miracle. If somehow I change their lives, it's a bigger miracle."(Shimomura 12).


Some paintings scream of racial stereotypes, featuring overstated bucktoothed, slanted-eyed, yellow-skinned characters. Shimomura acknowledges that some audience members will be upset and instantly walk away. For the people who dig a little deeper, they will discover Shimomura's history as well as ethics lesson about racial intolerance wrapped into a neat colorful package (Rachel 45-46).

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In Shimomura's field of muses as well as inspiration, there are no sacred cows; or Jayhawks, for that matter. He goes as far as taking on his employer, the University of Kansas. In "No Thanks," Shimomura sketches the school's mascot, a Jayhawk through imagining it with buckteeth and slanted eyes. The painting was inspired by the University of Kansas board of regents' 1942 veto against accepting Japanese Americans to the school. This piece of art obviously depicted racism and stereotypes that were taking place even in the University (Greg 35-36).

Shimomura was initially moved to show themes of his ethnic in addition to racial intolerance when he arrived at the University of Kansas in 1969. At some point, Shimomura recalls that he was a part of a very small ethnic minority. As his career developed, he began reaching back to his experiences as a three year old interned at Camp Minidoka in World War II. Shimomura also borrows from his grandmother's 56 years of private diary entries. Shimomura acknowledges that his very initial memories all came from the camps. "The camps burnt those experiences into my mind. Even as a 3-year old." (Shimomura 12-15).

For a long time, Roger Shimomura has developed an identifiable style. His brittle, flat, dynamic paintings use a visual language that contrasts and conflates signifiers of East and West -- Superman and Donald Duck, Warhol's Marilyn Monroe, chopsticks, rice bowls and traditionally-costumed kabuki and samurai figures rendered in the style of famous 19th-century Ukiyo-e prints. A lot could be written regarding the stylish way whereby Shimomura has exploited complex, subverted or reinvented the implications of these cultural icons. This shifting play of signs is one of the great rewards of Shimomura's work.

In this show, the extremely image-packed "Yellow Rat Bastard," an installation that consists of large scale portraits of Shimomura and his colleague Norman Gee, offers the best sense of Shimomura's ever-expanding glossary of culturally loaded iconography. Numerous catalogs on hand at the gallery also offer outstanding points of entry for those who are not familiar with Shimomura's prior work.

Shimomura's paintings and works are effectual in part because of their specificity and directness. His works relate and connect actual, lived experiences in a way that is not afraid of crossing taboos and resulting into discomfort. Considered as an entirety, the images give a portrait of various kinds and realms of discrimination, in the end transcending their specificity to develop a bigger portrait of the dynamics and frameworks of racism generally. The outcome seems to be precisely what Shimomura intends: to remind people regarding racial discrimination and to propel people towards a heightened consciousness of their own perceptions, beliefs as well as actions.

Through Roger Shimomura works, readers and viewers are able to feel implicated in these narratives, as either perpetrators or victims of racism, and are therefore forced to confront the responsibilities that go together with that point of identification. Racism is not a new subject but Shimomura goes on addressing racism with fitness, freshness in addition to intelligence. Most of Shimomura's work illustrates his experience as an American of Japanese descent, experiences that consist of his family's moving to an internment camp during World War II.

Shimomura's paintings are small and enormously restrained, in mood, style and color. His paintings have a sense of emotion boiling under a modest surface and he also employs irony in his work. Generally, Shimomura's paintings combine the flat, decorative boldness of Japanese prints with the brand-name persuasiveness of American pop art. For instance, the Baby Ruth candy bars exist side by side with chopsticks, tofu, and Udon noodles, GI Joe rubs elbows with silk-robed samurai. Superman makes a more than sporadic appearance, and his retribution regularly has purposely sinister Oriental features. Recurring elements serve as a symbolic language: for example, brick walls represent America wile translucent screens stand for Japan in Shimomura's works.

The utter artistic skill of Shimomura both lifts and lightens the effect of the work. His initial painting within the show is a ravishing image of grandmother half hidden through shoji screen, with the characteristic shape of the art deco radio within the forefront echoed within her face and patterns on her dress. Other pictures are more effectual in communicating the intended message; in particular those which make use of Shimomura's style to highlight the racism within the society. Roger Shimomura's works depict and communicate the charged theme of Japanese internment. Topicality in art, more so when tackling sweeping historical incidents, is a subject Shimomura has effectively addressed in his work.

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