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Society's moral fabric laid bare, in compelling fashion

A new exhibit at the Schneider Museum of Art showcases four artists whose work is dominated by hot-button social, cultural, racial and political issues. The show on the campus of Southern Oregon University comprises work by Enrique Chagoya, Betye Saar, Roger Shimomura, and Ben Sakoguchi.

Enrique Chagoya, who teaches at Stanford, questions assumptions about history and how it's written in bold works that sometimes resemble political cartoons. Borrowing images from American mass media, Mexican folk art, religious icons and Disney cartoons, he adds humor and an acerbic wit to create a distinct esthetic. The exhibit features work from his "Poor George," "Disasters of War," and "Return to Goya's Capriccios" series.

Los Angeles assemblage artist Betye Saar's career spans more than 40 years. Using a variety of media to create her paintings, assemblages and installations, she focuses on civil rights, racism, women's work, heritage and memory.

In 1997's "Leader," Aunt Jemima stands guard with a rifle on a vintage washboard with an American flag. Her works are in many collections, including the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

"The Orange Crate Label Series," by Southern California artist Ben Sakoguchi, is a collection of small groupings of canvases painted in a hyper-realistic style using the cheerful format of early 20th century orange crate labels with their sunny depictions of pastoral California. On exhibit will be groupings from "The Caprices," "The Disasters of War," "Postcards from Camp" and "The Unauthorized History of Baseball."

In the latter, one for Josh Gibson, who played in the Negro Leagues, is black, in contrast to the color of all the others.

Roger Shimomura's paintings are from his recent series "Minidoka on My Mind," which is about the racial conflicts of World War II and the imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in internment camps, one of which was near Klamath Falls. Shimomura was a professor of art at the University of Kansas until his retirement in 2004.

The images are almost cartoon-like in their simplicity and carry a sleek modernity. He has had more than 125 solo exhibitions of paintings and prints, and has presented his experimental theater pieces at such venues as The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

— Bill Varble