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Bruce and Norman Yonemoto
Soap Operas 1979-1990
Nov 5 - Dec 3, 2011

LA><ART will present a selection of videos produced by Bruce and Norman Yonemoto in the 1970’s. These videos will trace these artists’ explorations of mass media’s construction of reality. Employing the syntax and narrative of soap operas and other popular forms, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto unveil the mechanics that construct the media’s relationship to reality and fantasy. 

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Bruce Yonemoto: The Time Machine and Asexual Clone Mutation

LA><ART Gallery One


Bruce and Norman Yonemoto: A Survey of Selected Soap Operas, 1979-1990

LA><ART Gallery Two


November 5-December 3, 2011

Opening Reception: November 5, 2011, 7-9pm 


On the occasion of Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945-1980, LA><ART is pleased to present a selection of seven soap operas, written, directed, and produced by Bruce and Norman Yonemoto. Collaborators since 1976, the Yonemotos established their own production company, KYO-DAI Productions, that same year. Employing the syntax and melodramatic narrative of the soaps, Bruce and Norman Yonemoto unveil the mechanics that construct the genre and subsequently, the audience relationship to reality and fantasy.


Informed by Freudian psychoanalysis, the episodes share pervasive themes endemic to the rich and famous: art world ennui, clichéd romantic quandaries, hedonistic pursuits. Every character is classically unfulfilled, their lives devoid of any real depth. Using frequently employed tropes of sex, money, violence—a potent combination ensuring the success of any Hollywood cinematic venture—the Yonemoto soap operas consciously mobilize and exploit the idea that in our consumerist society “eventually, we all believe in the reality of our fantasies” (from Vault, 1984).


The soap operas also refer to the condition of the Sansei (or third-generation Japanese American), and notions of immigrant identity and trauma. Part of the postwar Baby Boom generation, Bruce and Norman’s practice was informed by their family’s experience—the Yonemotos’ parents were imprisoned in Northern California internment camps, and were relocated to Chicago briefly before returning to settle there with their family in 1949.


Working in a hyperbolic visual and narrative style, the Yonemotos juxtapose advertising and Pop imagery with narrative scenes, to create their distinctive approach. The quickly paced sequencing of the soap opera videos evokes flipping through television channels: modern Japanese cartoons are intercut with a static shot of an acidic 1980s color spectrum, then interspersed with a character’s black and white nightmarish flashback. There are frequent, purposeful slippages between the constructed fantasy world of television and cinema with bits and pieces that reflect the Yonemotos’ own personal history.


On view in Gallery Two is a looping program of the seven Bruce and Norman Yonemoto soap opera videos. The first three form a Soap Opera Trilogy, and employ the same characters and continuous storyline that mimics the narrative constructs of daytime TV: An Impotent Metaphor (1979), Based on Romance (1979), and Green Card: An American Romance (1982). The rest that follow are a continuation of the larger soap opera series, listed here in chronological order: Spalding Gray’s Map of L.A. (1984), Vault (1984), Kappa (1986) and Made in Hollywood (1990).


In Gallery One, LA><ART presents a new iteration of Bruce Yonemoto’s The Time Machine. Combining a film projection with a sculptural element, the installation treats film as both subject and medium, while exploring notions of memory and decay. The Time Machine, a 16mm film projection, depicts time-lapse and Claymation images of a flower within the same frame, collapsing the two modes—a real, blooming flower that eventually wilts, a false, wilted clay flower that eventually blooms. This double cycle sequence is repeated in an endless loop, ad infinitum. The work references H.G. Wells’ 1895 science fiction novella The Time Machine. Where Wells’ literary work describes the fantasy of time travel, Yonemoto’s filmic version of the Machine references director/animator George Pal’s 1960 classic film as well as a more specific and personal collapsing of time and memory.

Asexual Clone Mutation (for our father) encompasses a spot-lit red carnation featuring a single golden petal; a metaphor for the perverse pursuit of something flawless. A sculptural literalization of the biographical, the carnation references the Yonemotos’ grandfather and father, who were both horticulturalists, specializing in the Sim variety of carnation grown in what is now Silicon Valley. Through mutation and cloning, the flower becomes streamlined, rid of disease and imperfection. The carnation here is either the realization of a perfect fantasy, or the representation of an unattainable ideal. Bruce Yonemoto’s Asexual Clone Mutation (for our father) negotiates reality and fiction, an exercise expanded in his collaborative work with his brother Norman Yonemoto. 


Bruce Yonemoto studied at UC Berkeley and Sokei Art Institute in Tokyo. He received his MFA from Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, CA where he currently lives and works. He has taught video and photography at Universities in the United States and in Japan. He is currently Professor of Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine. Norman Yonemoto studied film at Santa Clara University, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the American Film Institute. He has been a contributing writer for Artweek and the author of the commercial films Chatterbox (1976) andSavage Streets (1983). The Yonemotos founded KYO-DAI Productions in 1976. They were awarded the 1993 Maya Deren Award for Experimental Film and Video. A mid-career survey of their collaborative work was staged at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles in 1999. Their work has also been exhibited extensively throughout the world in different venues including The Getty, Los Angeles; Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Image Forum, Tokyo; and the American Institute National Video Festival among others.



Founded in 2005, LA><ART is the leading independent non-profit contemporary art space in Los Angeles, committed to the production of experimental exhibitions and public art initiatives. Responding to Los Angeles’ cultural climate, LA><ART produces and presents new work for all audiences and offers the public access to the next generation of artists and curators. LA><ART supports challenging work, reflecting the diversity of the city and stimulates conversations on contemporary art in Los Angeles, fostering dynamic relationships between art, artists, and their audiences. LA><ART has produced and commissioned over 100 projects in its first five years.


Bruce and Norman Yonemoto’s exhibition is made possible with the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation, Electronic Arts Intermix, New York, Eileen Harris Norton Collection, and an Anonymous donor.


LA><ARTs programs are made possible with the generous support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, DEPART Foundation, the Danielson Foundation, the G.L. Waldorf Family Fund, The Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and The City of Los Angeles’ Department of Cultural Affairs.



Pacific Standard Time is an unprecedented collaboration of more than sixty cultural institutions across Southern California, coming together to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene.  Initiated through grants from the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time will take place for six months beginning October 2011.