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Posts Tagged ‘日系人’

Yet another post on contemporary art. Who am I? What happened to the Edo period specialist?

AMERICAN INFAMY #2, 2006
Acrylic on canvas, 4 panels, 72 x 30 each panel, 72 x 120 overall inches

Here’s a post on one of my least favorite subjects – the internment by the American government of Japanese-Americans during WWII. Easily one of our darkest moments, our most embarrassing. There remain today people who had been interned in those camps and whose opinion of the American government has been colored by that enough that they have joined the most militant of the anti-war movements. (PS I love calling anti-war people militant. It’s wonderfully ironically true. Some of the most obnoxious, pushy, self-righteous people I have ever met.)

Roger Shimomura was one of those internees, and he paints images of life in the camps in a style which reminds me very much of Yamaguchi Akira’s, which of course in turn draws upon Edo period rakuchû rakugai zu and the like, “traditional” styles of painting. In particular, the lack of the use of Western perspective in landscape, and something about the style of the lines themselves in the drawing, and the colors.


I don’t know how directly, how forcefully, the artist desires to express the political message which is obvious in any mention or depiction of the camps, his images seeming quite colorful and tame, depicting something which sort of approaches everyday normal life. Outside of the fact that these people are in camps, they do not seem particularly oppressed or miserable. Mind you, I am not arguing about what actually happened – it was a disgrace, a horrible thing to have done to people, an absolute injustice – but in these paintings we see the artist playing with traditional Japanese representations, and with fashions of the time, depicting a life that, if not for the barbed wire evident in some of the paintings, could be taking place in wartime America outside the camps, or even in wartime Japan.

On the other hand, of course, there are those with much more direct political meaning. I hate it when paintings aren’t exhibited along with their titles, the titles being so important to understanding the message, the intention, the meaning of a work.

SHADOW OF THE ENEMY, 2007
Acrylic on canvas, 45 x 36 inches

Thanks to Steve Dressler at El Sloganero for popping up in my Tag Surfer list of related blogs and introducing me to these works. He also links to a more formal website for an exhibition of Shimomura’s oeuvre.

Another interesting article on Shimomura’s work, including more images, disturbing both for their content and underlying meaning and for the distinctly undisturbing, non-violent, non-offensive colorful, almost cartoonish way in which they were painted.

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