“Roger Shimomura: By Looking Back, We Look Forward” opens on February 8, 2020

EUGENE, Ore. – (January 17, 2020) - On February 8, 2020, the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art opens “Roger Shimomura: By Looking Back, We Look Forward,” an exhibition that includes works from many phases of Shimomura’s long, prolific career.


“Shimomura uses his own family’s WWII experience in a Japanese-American internment camp to interrogate American and Asian pop cultural icons, notions of race, self-portraiture, and current political affairs,” says Anne Rose Kitagawa, JSMA chief curator of collections, Asian art, and academic programs.

Shimomura channels his outrage and despair into beautiful, provocative works of art. He uses a brightly colored Pop-Art style to depict a dizzying combination of traditional Japanese imagery and exaggerated cultural stereotypes. His ironic touch and acerbic wit create powerful works that encourage the viewer to consider events from America’s past and present through an often irreverent and sometimes inflammatory lens.


With the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, innocent Japanese-American families on the west coast were suddenly viewed with suspicion and hostility.  Eventually they were forced to leave their homes and most of their belongings in order to move to inland detention centers. More than 60% of those sent to these desolate concentration camps were U.S. citizens. To demonstrate their patriotism, approximately 33,000 voluntarily served in the U.S. military even while their relatives were imprisoned.


“Shimomura poignantly expresses the collective trauma, sadness, anger, and confusion of their experience with brilliant style, flawless technique, and dark humor,” says Kitagawa. “He also uses internment imagery to critique encroaching injustice and discrimination in current political discourse.”


Roger Shimomura was born in Seattle in 1939. In 1942, he and his family were forcibly relocated to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Hunt, Idaho, one of ten U.S. internment camps in which 120,000 Japanese and American citizens of Japanese descent were incarcerated from 1942-1945. After the war, Shimomura’s family returned to Seattle, where he went on to study art at the University of Washington and join the ROTC. After a brief stint in the U.S. Army, he began work as a commercial designer, but returned to UW to study Pop Art. He then transferred to Syracuse University, where he experimented with performance and film and received an MFA in 1969. Shimomura retired in 2004 after teaching for 35 years at the University of Kansas. He has received countless prizes and accolades for his paintings, prints, and performances.


“Roger Shimomura: By Looking Back, We Look Forward” will be on view at the JSMA through mid-summer, and is primarily drawn from the Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer, augmented with selected loans from the artist, Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art in Kansas City, the Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle, and works from the museum’s collection.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,