Devan Shimoyama USA, b. 1989


Devan Shimoyama’s visually scintillating artworks stop people in their tracks. Clad in such finery as fur, feathers, glitter, rhinestones, and sequins, his paintings and sculptures emit a magical and joyous aura. Viewers easily enchanted by beautiful things might get lost in the shimmering artistry of Shimoyama’s expertly crafted cosmetic veils. Those whose eyes and minds are willing to travel beyond the surface subterfuge of glitter, flowers, and jewels gain precious entry into a complex world of mystery, introspection, rhapsody, and desire. 


Shimoyama’s painting practice is rooted in explorations of his personal identity and experiences. Mobilizing mythology, spiritual traditions, and the compositional strategies of classical painters such as Francisco Goya and Caravaggio, he crafts heroic and sanguine depictions of the Black, queer, male body. Many of the men in Shimoyama's paintings literally have jewels in their eyes, endowing them with a tearful, mystified expression suggesting internal suffering.


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.


Shimoyama’s sculptural works often memorialize the more public aspects of Black suffering. For example, his Hoodie series sanctifies Trayvon Martin through the adornment of hoodies; his installation Untitled (for Tamir) includes a bejeweled, flower laden swing set surrounded by glittering teardrops in remembrance of the murder of Tamir Rice; while his monumental installation The Grove, which premiered at the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building in Washington, DC, used the common sight of shoes thrown over telephone wires as the subject for a gilded shrine to remembrance.


Shimoyama’s work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States. His solo 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 were juxtaposed along with a rotating selection of Warhol's Ladies and Gentlemen paintings from the 1970s. This juxtaposition offered 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.


Other major current and recent exhibitions include Devan Shimoyama in The Regional, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, USA; When We See Us, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa;  Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, at FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH, USA; All the Rage, at Kunstpalais, Erlangen, Germany, Shimoyama’s debut European solo museum exhibition; A Counterfeit Gift Wrapped in Fire, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; Untitled (For Tamir), a single work exhibition in the Spotlight Gallery at The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY, USA; Black Gentleman and Midnight Rumination, a major multi-museum exhibition at The Regional, co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, USA; Garmenting: Costume as Contemporary Art, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY, USA; Realms of Refuge, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL, USA; Tell Me Your Story, Kunsthal KAdE, Amersfoort, Netherlands; 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; and Translating Valence: Redefining Black Male Identity, Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Grand Rapids, MI, USA. Shimoyama was awarded the Al Held Fellowship at the Yale School of Art in 2013.

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