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Yoshiko Shimada

(1959 - )


A House of Comfort




Born in Tokyo, printmaker and visual artist Yoshiko Shimada received her BA in fine arts from Scripps College in California in 1982, and in 1985 studied etching under Katsuro Yoshida at Bigakko in Tokyo. While she grew up in Tachikawa, near the U.S. military base where her father worked, she began to explore themes related to the representation of Japanese war history in earnest only following the prolonged illness and 1988 death of the Showa emperor. Amazed by the failure of the press and other mainstream media in Japan to reflect on anything other than a "beautified" version of the past, she challenges this version of history in her work. In her prints and installation pieces, Shimada explores the roles and responsibilities of Japanese and other Asian women in World War II: the involuntary prostitution of Asian women as "comfort women" for Japanese soldiers; the general enthusiasm of Japanese women, as devoted mothers and providers, and as "enthusiastic fascists" devoted to the Emperor,willing to sacrifice themselves and victimize others in his name. The political nature of her work has been controversial in her home country, attracting the attention of mainly the European and English-language Japanese media, and influencing her decision to leave Japan for Germany in 1993. In 1994 she became a guest artist at the Kunstlerhaus in Berlin, and in 1995 received a Berlin City Kunstlerinnenprogramme grant. She returned to Tokyo in 1996, but has continued to exhibit internationally. She was a resident at the P.S. 1 International Studio Program in New York on a grant from the Asian Cultural Council in 1998. Her work has been presented in solo exhibitions at: Gallery Aki-Ex in Tokyo (1991); Gallery Miyazaki in Osaka (1994); Gallery A'perto in Amsterdam (1996); A Space Gallery in Toronto (1997); Hiraya Gallery in Manila (1997), among others. Selected group exhibitions include: 9th British Print Biennale (Birmingham, UK, 1986); Japan Visions (Ljublyana, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, 1989); My Eyes Blur Sometimes at Beauty (Asian American Art Centre, New York, 1992); Gender-Beyond Memory (Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, 1996); and Windows-Inside/Outside (Kwangju City Art Museum, Korea, 1999).

Further Reading

Brown, Azby, "The Birth of the Past", World Art, Aug. 1995
Shalala, Nancy, "Of Art and War", Asian Art News, Jan/Feb 1995.
Itoi, Kay, "An Artist Shunned at Home", Newsweek, 1995.