"The first iteration of the hoodie that I made and showed was in 2017. It was all black using sequins, beads, feathers and velvet. I initially leaned towards making it because I wanted to find new ways of paying homage to the many black lives taken through police brutality while still reminding people that this persists, and action must be taken. I didn't want to make paintings illustrating any of the related violence, as images of black men in pain were so triggering and already heavily present in the news and media. I then shifted from making the black hoodie to using more DIY craft traditions, such as the spontaneous memorial, as an inspiration for how to approach the next iteration, which now incorporates much more vibrant colors, silk flowers, rhinestones, embroideries, etc.
The hoodie initially stemmed from a combination of sources—Trayvon Martin (I now title the works February and number them in honor of his life), a "no hoodie" rule/sign present at many public schools in Philadelphia, and the ways in which black men were often reduced in the media (the first hoodies I made were titled Shroud).
People have ranges of reactions to the hoodies I've made. Many people have desires for them to be wearable: focusing on the fashion element. I've since adjusted the scale and the way in which the work is installed to deter from the idea of the piece being wearable. Others have had moments of realizing the real dangers presented towards black lives and immediately recognize the materiality as a reference to a memorial. Oddly enough, I've been approached and asked to do floral installations or centerpieces for events as well since making these hoodies."
Exhibitions featuring the hoodies include We Named Her Gladys at Kavi Gupta in Chicago (2018), Devan Shimoyama: Cry, Baby, at the Andy Warhol Museum (2018), After & Because Of, an exhibition at Indiana University's Herron School of Art and Design (2019) and The Hoodie, at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Netherlands (2020), which explores the role of a fashion garment as a socio-political carrier.
Artist Background: Devan Shimoyama (b. 1989, US) is a visual artist whose work explores depictions of the black, queer, male body. Through the medias of painting, sculpture, printmaking and installation, he creates compositions inspired by classical painters such as Francisco Goya, or Caravaggio. However, Shimoyama's use of materials is distinctly contemporary, as is the subject matter he depicts. He has stated that he wants the figures in his work to be 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 come through in his choice of materials, such as fur, feathers, glitter and costume jewels like rhinestones, and sequins. These materials endow the figures in the works with a sort of magical aura and joyful spirit. Yet, many of the men in Shimoyama’s works also literally have jewels in their eyes, giving them a mystified expression, interrupting the connection between their inner selves and the viewer, and suggesting a sort of silent suffering. Many also shed tears.
Devan Shimoyama: Cry, Baby, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, 2018 We Named Her Gladys, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, 2019 Getting To Know You, Cleveland Institute of Art, Reinberger Gallery, Cleveland, OH, 2019