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Roger Shimomura's work is an aesthetic and political comparison between contemporary America and traditional Japan. Using images from both cultures, Shimomura creates a complicated layering of pictorial information and social observation. As his paintings and prints are interpreted and decoded by the viewer, Shimomura's tangled intentions are revealed in a subtly political way.
Images of Superman being mounted by a geisha, for example, provide a provocative glimpse at the notion of miscegenation. Warhol's Liz fornicates with a fat, green-skinned Japanese man. Idealized Japanese men and women from woodblock prints are paired with idealized men and women from Western culture cartoons and films. Gridded screen partitions made of rice paper and wood allow figures to be shown in shadow or occasionally exposed like a peep show. Shimomura presents a cavalcade of cartoon characters, Ukiyo-e figures, Western domestic trappings and artifacts from Japanese history.
"I have often told my students that if making art is of paramount importance in their lives and that if they are willing to commit themselves to hard work and maintaining an engaged mind, they will eventually be able to free themselves o f everything they learned about art. I know from my experience that I have found this to be true.
"After years of studious concern over content, I feel that I have either reached or sunk to a level of security where ideas for my work flow, unconscionably. It seems that at some point I no longer felt compelled to project my own point of view toward the things that concerned me. I found myself more interested in creating a visual forum that expressed ironic and contradictory attitudes towards these concerns.
"This direction required many new resources and led me to practicing a form of self-legalized visual larceny. Using images from my past and immediate environments, from earlier and current work and using them as cultural metaphors, I became a dispassionate viewer of my own layering system.
"My writings in performance art have provided me an opportunity to extend some of these ideas through a new medium. With the added features of time, sound and linear logic, interfaced with film, poetry and video, I discovered new possibilities in which to play with a lifetime's accumulation of images. Suddenly I saw the relationship between the merchandise I used to covet and draw from old Sears catalogues and the bizarre collection of objects that now fill my house. So did I see the relationship between misleading reproductions from art history books and my mom's old issues of Woman's Day, between the music of the John Coltrane Quartet and the Salvation Army Band, between the stories that my grandmother left and the editorials in the local newspaper, between a meal of steamed black cod and the Colonel's Wingdinger, between vintage Kurosawa and Johnny Socko, between Masterpiece Theatre and Pee-Wee's Playhouse, between an Oreo cookie and a Chiquita Banana and between Minnie Mouse and one of Utamaro's beauties."
—Statements by Roger Shimomura