Devan Shimoyama discusses the show’s theme, still life, in the context of his oeuvre which ranges from the object to the figure, and from conceptual sculpture to representation painting.
Timed with the presentation of Elegies: Still Lifes in Contemporary Art, an exhibition running from March 31, 2022 through August 21, 2022, curator Monique Long and artists Sadie Barnette and Devan Shimoyama conversed with MoAD’s Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Affairs Elena Gross.
Shimoyama’s work, For Tamir VII, 2019, is featured prominently in this exhibition. It is a representation of the innocence of young Black men who were tragically and pointlessly killed. In sculpture, Shimoyama creates objects of mourning for Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. He uses a variety of found and repurposed materials, such as silk flowers, rhinestones, and jewelry, to bring layers of interpretations and contextualizations for his audiences.
Across his oeuvre, Shimoyama deals with the social issues affecting African Americans across time, and at present day. Ribbons of these themes are evident in the context of the Elegies show, and are of special pertinence in this discussion.
“I associate the word ‘elegy’ with a poem. [In] that poem, specifically centering the idea of mourning or loss or death…That’s something that is directly tethered to…the sculptural side of my practice”
Considering the Still Life
“A still life [is] a construction of a number of small parts that come together to tell a story, or is a portrait in and of itself…I think that a lot of a lot of the function of still life is to…tell a story. It can talk about art history.”
Conceptualizing Life and Death
“Upstairs in the exhibition there are these two swings that are embellished with rhinestones and silk flowers and for me those materials they they come out of craft traditions, rooted in mourning, spontaneous memorials, and the ways in which communities come together to mourn the loss of a life, but also to celebrate a life…through creating something beautiful out of that trauma or pain.
I’m a painter primarily, and so for me poetry and painting are so…intrinsically linked…dealing with subject, perspective, rhyming, and color, even.”
“I think a lot of the time [in my] non-figurative work, people project on to it. They might have an immediate reaction of what’s really sparkly, it’s fun. I make hoodies that are completely embellished and [use] the same materials, and people want to wear them.”
View the entire artist and curator talk here.