Roger Shimomura

Roger Shimomura mixes American culture and Asian stereotypes in his artwork.

Roger Shimomura has been painting for more than half a century, and he’s not stopping now. He said rumblings that his upcoming exhibition in Kansas City, Missouri is the last of his career are only rumors. However, he said he's likely to slow down.

“I've averaged about three solo shows a year for 40 years, 50 years, and I'm tired,” he said, laughing.

Shimomura’s “American Muse” opened today at the Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art gallery in Kansas City, Missouri and will remain on display through May 25.

Leedy said the paintings in “American Muse” are classic Shimomura: eye-catching pieces of political pop art that are sharply critical of racism in modern American culture.

“I think of it more as a culmination of a lifetime of engagement with social issues,” Leedy said. “And that is as vibrant and edgy as ever.”

Shimomura taught painting and performance art at the University of Kansas from 1969 to 2004. In 1994, he became the University’s first Fine Arts faculty member to be named a University Distinguished Professor. Shimomura still lives in Lawrence, and he still paints every day.

Shimomura said his identity as a Japanese American has inspired much of his art. His paintings often depict cartoonish representations of Asian stereotypes and appropriated pieces of East Asian culture. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, his family was imprisoned in the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho for two years.

“American Muse” is divided into three parts: “Great American Muse,” named for artist Tom Wesselmann’s famous “Great American Nude” series; “Minidoka and Beyond,” largely inspired by his childhood in the prison camp; and “Muslims and More,” its working title, a series of small paintings inspired by Donald Trump’s 2017 travel ban.

“I think it's fair for viewers to come and complain about the fact that there might seem to be a lack of focus about the work,” Shimomura said. “But I would hope that everyone looking at it, will try to bring what's meaningful to them and to the work because that's more what this series is about.”