Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB

Kansas Samurai

A third generation Japanese American, Shimomura taught on the studio art faculty of the University of Kansas for thirty-five years. Inspired by the Pop Art movement and the diaries of his immigrant grandmother, he created a unique body of work that blends a strong graphic aesthetic and a deeply personal iconography.

This print—expanding on a small black-and-white etching produced the previous year—combines elements of his Asian ethnic heritage with icons of American popular culture. While Shimomura appropriated Western comic characters (Dagwood Bumstead, Donald Duck, Pluto, Popeye, Dick Tracy, Superman, and Mickey Mouse), he adopts his “samurai” from a woodblock print by Natori Shunsen, a modern Japanese master. By giving the figure glasses and a goatee, Shimomura transforms the actor’s portrait into a self-portrait. Envisioning himself as a stereotypical Japanese warrior, Shimomura suggests the duality of his cultural influences—he collects American comic books and Japanese ukiyo-e prints—as well as an underlying dichotomy, as his childhood heroes face in opposing directions.

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes an impression of the 1927 Japanese color woodblock print by Natori Shunsen, which is referenced by Shimomura (Eskenazi Museum of Art 2007.2).

Roger Shimomura
American, born 1939
Kansas Samurai
Color lithograph on paper
Image: 38 ½ x 25 7/8 in. (97.8 x 65.7 cm); sheet: 44 ¾ x 31 in. (113.7 x 78.7 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Museum purchase with the funds from the Thomas T. Solley Endowed Fund for the Curator of Asian Art, 2009.8

Large image not available.