Staging Shimomura

Sam and Connie Perkins Central Court, 317; Dolph Simons Family Gallery, 316; Estelle S. and Robert A. Long Ellis Foundation Gallery, 315

Staging Shimomura explores the dynamic role of performance in the artistic practice of Roger Shimomura. From his early experimental films produced as a graduate student in the late 1960s to full theatrical productions staged in the early 2000s, Shimomura created multifaceted performances that centered on the Asian American experience for more than three decades. Born in Seattle, Washington, on June 26, 1939, Shimomura’s earliest memories are from the Minidoka internment camp in Southern Idaho where he and his family, as American citizens of Japanese ancestry, were forcefully and unconstitutionally incarcerated shortly after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Although Shimomura describes himself as a painter, performance art allowed him to expand and activate central themes in his work through live action. His performances interrogate racist issues common to Asian Americans, as well as experiences specific to Japanese Americans living in internment camps, the latter largely based on the translated diary entries of his grandmother, Toku Machida Shimomura (1888–1968). By interweaving digitally remastered performance excerpts with theatrical props, prints, and paintings, this exhibition fosters new understandings of Shimomura’s rich universe of personal experiences and pop culture references that examine the dark underbelly of stereotypes and racism that continue to resonate with issues in America today.

Staging Shimomura and related programs are supported by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the H. Neil Mecaskey Jr. Foundation, the Franklin D. Murphy Lecture Fund of the Kress Foundation Department of Art History, KU Student Senate, the Linda Inman Bailey Exhibitions Fund, Friends of the Art Museum, Elizabeth Broun, Jolisa and Don Buchner, Don and Carol Hatton, David Henry and Matt Taylor, Janet Howard, Burdett and Michel Loomis, Sallie and Richard Morrison, and John Poertner.

Staging Shimomura's opening reception is sponsored by Barnes & Thornburg, LLP.

View the exhibition brochure.

Watch all 10 performance recordings featured in this exhibition.

Watch a restaging of "Songs for a Rickshaw Boy" at the Spencer on February 28, 2020.

Please note: The Spencer Museum continues to assess the safety of reopening our galleries to the public while following best practices for social distancing. Therefore, exhibition dates may change. We appreciate your patience as we respond to this ongoing situation.


Selected images