Devan Shimoyama USA, b. 1989

Overview

Devan Shimoyama is a visual artist whose work explores depictions of the Black, queer, male body. Through the media of painting, sculpture, printmaking, and installation, he creates compositions inspired by classical painters, such as Francisco Goya and Caravaggio. However, Shimoyama’s use of materials is distinctly contemporary, as is the subject matter he depicts. 

 

Shimoyama has stated that he wants the figures in his work are perceived as “both desirable and desirous.” He is aware of the politics of queer culture, and the ways in which those politics relate to black American culture. These elements come together in his works in a way that is both celebratory and complicated. The celebratory aspects of Shimoyama’s work come through in his choice of materials. Employing such things as fur, feathers, glitter and costume jewels like rhinestones, and sequins, he brings shine and dimensionality to his surfaces. These materials add to the sense that the figures in the works possess a sort of magical aura, and joyful spirit.

 

Yet, so many of the men in Shimoyama’s works also literally have jewels in their eyes, endowing them with a mystified, often vacant expression, interrupting the connection between their inner selves and the viewer, and suggesting a sort of silent suffering. Many are also shedding tears.

 

Shimoyama was awarded the Al Held Fellowship at the Yale School of Art in 2013 and has had a residency at the 2015 Fire Island Artist Residency. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States. His recent exhibition Cry, Baby was presented at the Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, from October 13, 2018–March 17, 2019. In this exhibition, new and existing works by Shimoyama’s work were juxtaposed along with a rotating selection of Warhol’s Ladies and Gentlemen paintings from the 1970s. This juxtaposition offers a unique opportunity not only to interrogate the conversation between these two artists’ work, but also to consider generational evolutions in the realm of how issues related to gender, sexuality, race and violence are portrayed in contemporary art.

 

Recent major exhibitions of Shimoyama's work include Tell Me Your Story, Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort, Netherlands; Devan Shimoyama: Cry, Baby, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Getting to Know You, Cleveland Institute of Art, OH, USA; We Named Her Gladys, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; The Barbershop Project, CulturalDC, Washington, DC, USA; Fictions, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY, USA; Parallel Lives, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; and Translating Valence: Redefining Black Male Identity, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI, USA.

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