With All The Rage: Devan Shimoyama @ Kunstpalais Erlangen, Germany
Continuing their exciting program that features prominent international emerging artists (we've featured their Grace Weaver showcasea while ago), Kunstpalais Erlangen, Germany, is currently wrapping up their big solo exhibition with works by Devan Shimoyama. After being on view for almost five months, these are the final days of With All The Rage, an elaborate exhibition showcasing the American painter's multi-layered, catchy material collage-based explorations of his origins and the queer culture.
Starting off from himself, Shimoyama's oeuvre is strongly based on self-portraiture and portraiture, intertwining those personal stories with the narratives inspired by classical mythology and allegory. In combination with his unique technical approach and creative process that includes the use of most uncommon materials and additions, the artist is creating a highly captivating work that depicts the "Black queer male body as something that is both desirable and desirous". At the same time, by mixing his interest in tradition, classicism, but also folklore and popular culture, the collaged pieces earn a mysterious quality with the way the subjects are portrayed among all the jewels, black glitter, rhinestones, and sequins. “I started using objects from my own childhood, things with a certain luster or polish to them, thinking back to China cabinets and these little beautiful encrusted plates," the artist stated about the shift from drawing as the core of his practice to application of different materials in his work. "Creating that fiction of glamour, of decadence, of wealth is something heavily ingrained in drag culture that always fascinates me but it’s also heavily ingrained into Black culture.” In such a exuberant setting, the Philadelphia-born artist is capable of capturing both the beauty and alienation of the Black queer body.
This tension between the opposing elements permeates Shimoyama's work both on technical and contextual level. On one hand creating intricate surfaces through additional materials, the artist is often reducing some parts to sections of solid colors or smooth gradients bounded with bold outlines. On other hand, such elements as lips or eyes are realistically depicted through printed photographs in which pixelization, as a default 21st century aesthetics, is purposely left noticeable. Both exaggerating and emphasizing these features, the artist is referring to the culture of body modification while giving nods to drag culture and the general urge to heighten one's appearance. At the same time, hair curls or fashion garments are sculpted from a variety of materials, underlining this realistic aspect of the work and accentuating the importance we give to our physical looks. This is then again contrasted with often silhouette-like body shapes on which these exhilarating portrayals are built on. —Sasha Bogojev
Photos courtesy the artist, Photos: Tom Little / Sasha Bogojev