The paintings of Roger Shimomura pack a visual knockout punch. They are loaded with imagery ranging from pure Pop Americana to cringe-worthy racial stereotypes, visual puns, humor, and barbed wire. Shimomura’s complex pairing of influences is masterfully composed and depicted in bold flat color and confident line. The thought-provoking content is filtered through the lens of his personal experience as an American of Japanese heritage.
As a child, Shimomura was imprisoned, along with his family, in Minidoka (Idaho), one of ten concentration camps for Japanese Americans during WWII. The long-lasting impact of that experience and the subsequent reckoning with what it means to be an American have provoked and sustained Shimomura over his career, spanning more than fifty years.
Shimomura’s most recent exhibition American Muse at Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art consisted of more than 100 paintings from three series, The Great American Muse, Minidoka and Beyond, and Muslims and More. These three series of paintings offer visual stories of our time and serve as a metaphor for the anxiety and threat posed by current events. The paintings sound a warning and remind us not to repeat past mistakes. If paintings can effect social change, then these are the paintings that lead the way.
Roger Shimomura is in the permanent collections of over 125 museums nationwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of American Art, National Portrait Gallery, LA County Museum and American Art Museum, Smithsonian. His personal papers and letters are being collected by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.