April 4, 2023
Roger Shimomura, Kansas Samurai, 2004. 7 color lithograph. Edition of 46. Courtesy Greg Kucera Gallery and The Lawrence Lithography Workshop.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Jan. 4, 2016) — Macalester College’s Law Warschaw Gallery, together with the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League, are pleased to present an exhibition from prolific American artist Roger Shimomura.

Throughout his extensive career, Shimomura’s work has provided stealth commentary addressing sociopolitical issues of ethnicity. The exhibition includes a range of works on paper from the past 25 years which point to the history and confused ideals of racial exclusion in America.

The Law Warschaw Gallery is located in the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center of Macalester College, 130 Macalester Street, St. Paul, MN 55105. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays and Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Several bodies of work within the exhibition – Minidoka on My Mind, Minidoka Snapshots, Yellow No Same, and Nisei Trilogy – draw upon the artist and his family’s experiences while incarcerated at Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho, one of the ten concentration camps wherein Japanese Americans were detained by the United States government during World War II. These recollections offer a glimpse into the humility of the camps and the resilience and commitment of the citizens detained, who embodied and honored their American identity despite the cultural ignorance which characterized, and continues to characterize, Asian Americans and their status within American society.

In these works, Roger constructs a hypothetical history based on research from his grandmother’s diary, public archives and photographs, as well as his own family photos. Roger reveals the dismal conditions in the camps idealized through a traditional Japanese ‘floating world’ style. This visual separation from the historical event renders the incarcerated through an exoticized lens and leverages foils like barbed wire, windows, and mirrors, to heighten and question the separation between American-ness and Otherness. Using absurd caricatures, poignant humor, and riffing off of preconceptions for ‘what kind of art Japanese artists make,’ Roger catches us in our own judgements and misconceptions – a past, and unfortunately, present-day mistake.

Dorothea Lange/Densho. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Roger himself often appears in this work, at times as a young toddler participating in the ‘memory’ or, in more recent work, Shimomura inserts his own likeness as mature individual, or ironic ‘Asian Everyman,’ embodying or combating racial stereotypes in an effort to raise awareness about our notions of identity by using absurdity to demonstrate his outrage at racial misconceptions. Shimomura heightens these notions of identity by combining symbols of idealized American life, like Disney characters, celebrities, embedded with traditional Japanese iconography. For Shimomura, these conflated icons offer a tongue-in-cheek delivery of the patronization and sense of rejection he experienced from being deemed a perpetual foreigner in his own country.

Roger’s work, while fabricated, recalls a real historical moment, now 75 years ago, in which Japanese Americans were excluded from a general populous. These experiences continue to influence his investigations on race, identity, and their misconceptions, as he experienced them throughout his career. The exhibition presented now, in 2017, offers a strident reminder of the conditions for fear which might place false distinctions between Americans.
This exhibition is presented to recognize the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and is hosted in collaboration with, and sponsorship from, the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League.

The Opening Reception, “An evening to celebrate the work of Roger Shimomura” will be held 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Jan. 27, in the Art Gallery and Art Commons.

Film selections from the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League will be screened Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. from Feb. 2 to March 9, 2017 in Room AC101 of the Janet Wallace Art Center.

The Reading Room, featuring images from the National Archives and book selections on Roger Shimomura and the history of Japanese incarceration, will be open during Gallery Hours on the Second Floor Lounge of the Janet Wallace Art Center.

A Public Discussion on the “Legacy of Incarceration” with members of the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League will be held 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 in the Art Gallery.

The Law Warschaw Gallery wishes to recognize the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League, Roger Shimomura, Greg Kucera Gallery and The Lawrence Lithography Workshop for their support of this exhibition.

Sally Sudo of the Twin Cities Japanese American Citizens League. Courtesy of the Star Tribune.

Roger Shimomura was born in Seattle, WA, and received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington, Seattle, and an M.F.A. from Syracuse University, New York. He has had over 130 solo exhibitions of paintings and prints, as well as presented his experimental theater pieces at such venues as the Franklin Furnace (New York), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), and The Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.)

Shimomura taught at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS from 1969–2004. In 1990, Shimomura held an appointment as the Dayton Hudson Distinguished Visiting Professor at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. He is the recipient of more than 30 grants and awards, of which 4 are National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships in Painting and Performance Art. Shimomura has been a visiting artist and lectured on his work at more than 200 universities, art schools, and museums across the country. Following his retirement in 2004 he founded the Shimomura Faculty Research Support Fund, an endowment to foster faculty research in the Department of Art. Shimomura’s works are included in the permanent collections of over 90 museums nationwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian. His personal papers and letters are being collected by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Roger Shimomura is represented by Flomenhaft Gallery (New York) and Greg Kucera Gallery (Seattle).

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