The oeuvre of Daniel E. Rohrig and his professional life are intertwined. During World War II, he worked in the Army’s Adjutant General’s Department, the military’s administrative corps. His tenure as a company clerk for the 4th Replacement Depot in Leyte, Philippines, ended in August 1945. After his discharge, Rohrig began a career as a purser for military ships. He served in the Military Sea Transport System (MSTS) for the rest of his life, as a civilian member of the crew.
When the United States occupied Japan (1945-1951), MSTS ships specialized in transporting the relatives of military personnel to American bases, notably in Hawaii, Seattle, Guam, the Marshall Islands, and Yokohama.
Japan was a frequent destination for the MSTS ships on which Rohrig worked. The long journeys offered plenty of time to draw. He likely made use of the ship’s library, given his informed references of Japanese culture. His art suggests a deep engagement with his sources and appreciation for said culture. The artwork titled Bandit (1959) is typical of Rohrig’s repertoire, bringing new and old Japanese popular culture together in multifaceted conversations and aesthetic contrasts.
In the work seen here, Rohrig combines a range of references, including post-war Japanese movies, ancient military history, and 17th-19th-century woodblock prints featuring Kabuki actors. Two popular Japanese actors—past and present—appear side-by-side, suggesting a reflection on the nature of “bad guys” in films: Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune plays Tajōmaru, a bandit in Akira Kurosawa’s widely distributed film Rashōmon (1950). To his left is a character from Tōshūsai Sharaku’s 1794 woodblock print, of Kabuki Actor Ōtani Oniji III playing the role of Yakko Edobei, who is considered a ruthless henchman.