Devan Shimoyama (b. 1989, USA) is a visual artist whose work explores depictions of the black, queer, male body.Read More
Though he sometimes employs a variety of other mediums, Shimoyama primarily focuses on painting, specifically the genre of portraiture. His compositions are inspired by those of classical painters of the past, such as Francisco Goya, or Caravaggio. However, his use of materials is distinctly contemporary, as is the particular 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 13 October 2018–17 March 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.
Text courtesy Kavi Gupta.