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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - October 6, 2011

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Chris Komai - ckomai@janm.org - 213-830-5648

‘DRAWING THE LINE: JAPANESE AMERICAN ART, DESIGN & ACTIVISM IN POST-WAR LOS ANGELES’ TO OPEN OCT. 15

Exhibition Part of Getty's 'Pacific Standard Time'

Los Angeles

The Japanese American National Museum will continue its focus on the post-World War II Nikkei experience with its latest exhibition, Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles, opening Saturday, October 15 and running through February 19, 2012, in the Museum’s Pavilion in Little Tokyo. This exhibition is part of the project Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945 – 1980, an unprecedented collaboration initiated through grants from the Getty Foundation of more than fifty cultural institutions across Southern California, which are coming together to tell the story of the birth of the L.A. art scene. Pacific Standard Time, which will take place for six months beginning October 2011, is an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor is Bank of America.

Drawing the Line explores the cultural resonance of several key Japanese American artists in the decades following the Second World War. By situating the work of a diverse group of creative figures in the context of resettlement and a subsequent shifting sense of cultural identity, the exhibition brings to light a complex story that weaves art and community as part of the same fabric.

"While this story is specific to the unique circumstances of Japanese Americans from the 1950s to the early 1980s," explained Curator Kris Kuramitsu, "it also resonates and overlaps with other social and cultural movements, like the Civil Rights, Anti-Vietnam War, and Women’s Movements. This broad view of activism and art will provide a nuanced reading of politics in the creative work of artists across multiple generations."

The exhibition includes artists such as painter Matsumi "Mike" Kanemitsu; musician and dancer Nobuko Miyamoto, founder of Great Leap; photographer and filmmaker Robert A. Nakamura; performance artist Linda Nishio; painter and printmaker Ben Sakoguchi; automobile designer Larry Shinoda; the seminal Asian American magazine Gidra; graphic designer Qris Yamashita; filmmaker and visual artist Norman Yonemoto; and visual artist Bruce Yonemoto. The exhibition will give a glimpse of the changing ways that Japanese Americans created visions of and for themselves and their communities.


ABOUT THE EXHIBITION

Drawing the Line explores the changing notions of identity and community in Post-War Japanese American Los Angeles, from the 1950s to the early 1980s. Art and activism combine and are redefined through landmark works by a diverse group of exceptional artists and designers. Works of industrial and graphic design will be seen side by side with paintings and photographs; performances, theatrical and musical, will be shown with performance art and film. This exhibition was supported through grants from the Getty Foundation.

Among the works of art featured in the exhibition will be Matsumi Kanemitsu’s “Illustrations of Southern California,” a suite of prints exploring the artist’s perspective on the history of Los Angeles; a photograph of the first pilgrimage in 1969 to the Manzanar concentration camp site by filmmaker Robert A. Nakamura, who was incarcerated there as a boy during World War II; a series of "Orange Crate Label" paintings by Ben Sakoguchi; a vintage 1963 Sting Ray Corvette, designed by Larry Shinoda; ephemera and footage from Nobuko Miyamoto’s 1980 musical "Chop Suey"; a new installation by Linda Nishio revisiting her 1981 performance "Ghost in the Machine"; posters by graphic designer Qris Yamashita; a documentary about the 1969 events around People’s Park in Berkeley by Norman Yonemoto; a rarely seen series of prints by Bruce Yonemoto; and copies of the original Gidra magazine from the 1970s.


PUBLIC PROGRAMS
December 4 - Time and Venue TBD

Alternative Projections: Experimental Film in Los Angeles, 1945-1980: Visual Communications.

This program focuses on works produced by the Visual Communications, the first non-profit organization in the nation dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of the Asian Pacific American peoples, communities and heritage through the media arts. The program will include Robert Nakamura's foundational film, Manzanar (1972).

This program is co-presented by Los Angeles Filmforum and Visual Communications.


December 17 - 2 p.m., Japanese American National Museum
Drawing the Line Panel Discussion

A panel discussion with several of the artists and designers featured in Drawing the Line.

January 7 - Time TBD, East West Players, 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles.


Screening of Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (1980)

Screening of a newly restored 16mm print of this cinematic landmark, the first feature film produced by and about Asian Americans. Oda, an elderly bachelor living in Little Tokyo, chronicles the stories of the Japanese American community from the turn of the century to the 1970s. The filmmaker will be present for a Q&A following the screening. Co-presented by Los Angeles Filmforum and Visual Communications. Special thanks to the Academy Film Archive.

January 24 - Time TBD, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE), 6522 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles.


Nobuko Miyamoto: What Can a Song Do?

Miyamoto brings alive the dynamic moment when the album "A Grain of Sand" created a heartbeat for the Asian American Movement, sharing rhythms with Latinos, Blacks and Native Americans. Together with guest musicians and activists from yesterday and today, she weaves a poetic elixir that tells the story. Co-presented with LACE. Part of the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival.


February 11 - 1-4 p.m., Japanese American National Museum

Gallery talks by several of the artists featured in Drawing the Line.


ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Matsumi "Mike" Kanemitsu (1922-1992) was born in Ogden, Utah, but moved to a suburb of Hiroshima, Japan, at the age of three. He returned to the U.S. in 1940 and enlisted in the Army. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he and other Japanese Americans were removed from active duty and he was held in detention. While in prison, he began to draw with art supplies from the Red Cross. After the war, he moved to New York, joined the Art Student League and studied under painter Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Thanks to a grant, he joined the Tamarind Lithograph Workshop in Los Angeles. He combined sumi-e (Japanese ink drawing), watercolors, lithography and painting on canvas. He was an instructor at both Chouinard Art School (1965-1970) and Otis Art Institute (1971-1983). His works have been exhibited throughout the country and in 1990 a show of his lithographs over a 30-year period was presented in the museums of four Japanese cities.

Nobuko Miyamoto is Great Leap's Founder/Artistic Director and is a performing artist, songwriter and director. Originally a dancer on Broadway and in films such as "Flower Drum Song" and "Westside Story", she found her own voice as an activist in the 70's Asian American movement, co-creating the milestone album A Grain of Sand with the acclaimed folk trio Yellow Pearl (with Chris Iijima and Charlie Chin). Yellow Pearl is credited with creating the soundtrack of the Asian American movement. She established Great Leap in 1978 to develop theater works about the Asian American experience, later expanding to present multicultural voices and interfaith expressions. Nobuko’s latest work is a series of environmental music videos, the first, B.Y.O. CHOPSTIX, with Dan Kwong directing.

Robert Akira Nakamura is a pioneering filmmaker and instructor who left a successful career in photography to become one of the first to explore, interpret and present the experiences of Japanese Americans in film. His groundbreaking documentary Manzanar (1972) revisited painful childhood memories of his incarceration in a World War II American concentration camp. Other works include Wataridori: Birds of Passage (1975), Hito Hata: Raise the Banner (1980), Fools Dance (1983), Conversations: Before/After the War (1985), Through Our Own Eyes (1992), Moving Memories (1992), Something Strong Within (1994) and Looking Like the Enemy (1995). He founded Visual Communications in 1970, the oldest community-based media arts center in the United States. In 1996, he founded the UCLA Center for EthnoCommunications to link ethnic studies and community documentation, and in 1997, he and Karen Ishizuka founded the Watase Media Arts Center of the Japanese American National Museum. He is Associate Director of the Asian American Studies Center and Professor of the Department of Asian American Studies at UCLA.

Linda Nishio, a Sansei (third generation Japanese American) living in Altadena, is a recipient of a NEA Artist’s fellowship whose work has been exhibited locally and nationally. Over the past 25 years, Nishio's diverse practice has included sculpture, photography, video, performance, printing, drawing and digital images. Among her works is "Ghost in the Machine" (1981) and Kikoemasu ka? ("Can you hear me?"), which was part of the National Museum’s "Finding Family Stories" project. She worked as a designer at the Women's Graphic Center at the Woman's Building in the early 1980s and also served on the Board of Directors. She received her MFA in fine arts from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Ben Sakoguchi was born in San Bernardino in 1938 and was incarcerated in the Poston, Arizona camp during World War II. His family managed to return and reopened its small grocery and Ben attended public schools before entering UCLA. Sakoguchi earned a B.A., teaching credential, and in 1964 a Master of Fine Arts degree. He took a teaching position at Pasadena City College, where he was on the Art Department faculty until his 1997 retirement. In four decades as a professional artist, Sakoguchi has shown his work in numerous solo and group exhibitions, primarily at schools, museums, and other non-profit venues within the United States. He has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, and in 1997 participated in the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Artists at Giverny Program. More recently, he was among the recipients of Flintridge Foundation Awards for Visual Artists for 2005-2006.

Lawrence Kiyoshi "Larry" Shinoda (1930-1997) was a noted automobile designer who is best remembered for his work on the Cherolet Corvette and the Ford Mustang. Born in Los Angeles, he demonstrated artistic ability in grade school, but his education was interrupted by World War II when he and his family were sent to Manzanar. Back in L.A., he began racing hot rods and won the first National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals in 1955 in his 1924 Ford. After a short stint at Art Center, Shinoda worked for Ford and Chrysler before moving to General Motors in 1956. His refined work on concept cars was eventually translated into the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray and the 1968 version was patterned after another Shinoda design. When one of his GM’s bosses moved to Ford, Shinoda changed companies and developed the high performance Boss 302 Mustang. Shinoda eventually started his own design company and did work for GM, Ford and American Motors.

Qris Yamashita is a graphic designer and artist whose primary role is to communicate a message to others. For the Japanese American and Asian Pacific American community, she has designed posters, books, flyers and T-shirts, which have promoted, taught and inspired others about issues, events, ideas and activities of importance to the community. She stands among few American designers who successfully synthesizes in her work traditional Japanese, Japanese American and contemporary Western images, expressing a Japanese American sensibility and perspective. Qris is a long-time member of Kinnara Taiko and gagaku and active with Senshin Buddhist Temple, creating and supporting the development of a Japanese American Buddhist culture. Her work has been displayed at MOMA in New York, the Long Beach Museum of Art, the Japanese American National Museum and the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center.

Bruce Yonemoto has developed a body of work that examines the intersections of art and commerce, of the gallery world and the cinema screen. He has distinguished himself with his collaborative videos and media installations with his brother, Norman, which address clichés and myths of American culture and aspects of their identities as Japanese Americans. In 1999 the Yonemotos were honored with a major mid-career survey show at the Japanese American Museum Most recently, Bruce's solo installations, photographs and sculptures have been featured in major one-person shows at the ICC in Tokyo, the ICA in Philadelphia, the St. Louis Art Museum and the Kemper Museum in Kansas City. He has had solo exhibitions at Alexander Gray Gallery, New York, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles, Tomio Koyama, Tokyo, Galerie Quynh, Ho Chi Minh City and his work was featured in Los Angeles 1955-85 at the Pompidou Center, Paris, and the Generali Foundation, Vienna, The Getty Research Center in LA, the 2008 Gwangju Biennial.

Norman Yonemoto grew up in post-war California and his parents, forced to live in a government-run concentration camp during World War II, raised him to question political institutions and the mass media. Questioning authority became a basis of his art, which includes films, videos and installations. After finishing his film studies at American Film Institute in Los Angeles in 1973, Norman and his brother Bruce pooled their talents to explore the material and contextual implications of the moving images spread by the mass media. They became known the world over as “the Yonemoto brothers”, authors of films, single channels videos, performances and installations. Their collaboration ended in 1999 after the first complete survey of their work at the Japanese American National Museum. Norman’s ongoing research into the effect of technology on our concepts of "self" and the "other" parallels his personal struggle to keep his own mind and body intact after a stroke left him partially paralyzed. He remains active, despite his physical challenges.

GIDRA was a groundbreaking Asian American publication begun by five UCLA Asian American students in 1969 to provide accurate information about Asian Americans and to promote existing community organizing efforts, among other tasks. It reflected the desire for collectivism and to advance Asian American pride, but many individual issues were constantly debated. The magazine is also noted for integrating art and poetry in its pages, framing creative expression as integral to the political and social struggle. As a publication over its five-year existence, Gidra devoted most of its attention to two areas: political advocacy, especially the anti war movement, and Asian American identity. By one count, almost 250 people contributed to the publication.


ABOUT THE CURATOR

Kris Kuramitsu is an independent curator and art/philanthropic consultant based in Los Angeles. Recent curatorial projects include "John Outerbridge: The Rag Factory," now on view at LA--ART, Los Angeles; the Los Angeles section of ARCOmadrid 2010; and the exhibition "Invisible City" at the Instituto Cervantes in Madrid and Berlin; among other exhibitions. She is the Production Manager for the Pacific Standard Time Performance and Public Art Festival, an 11-day presentation of large-scale performance artworks and temporary public art installations taking place in January 2012. She has served as the Programs Director at Creative Link for the Arts in New York; curator for the collections of Eileen and Peter Norton, and for the Collection of Eileen Harris Norton; and as the Arts Programs Director for the Peter Norton Family Foundation. She has an MA in Art History from UCLA.


About Pacific Standard Time: Art in LA 1945 – 1980

Pacific Standard Time is a collaboration of more than fifty cultural institutions across Southern California, which are coming together for six months beginning October 2011 to tell the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene and how it became a major new force in the art world. Each institution will make its own contribution to this grand-scale story of artistic innovation and social change, told through a multitude of simultaneous exhibitions and programs. Exploring and celebrating the significance of the crucial post-World War II years and beyond, Pacific Standard Time encompasses developments from modernist architecture and design to multi-media installations; from L.A. Pop to post-minimalism; from the films of the African-American L.A. Rebellion to the feminist happenings of the Woman’s Building; from ceramics to Chicano performance art, and from Japanese-American design to the pioneering work of artists’ collectives.

Initiated through $10 million in grants from the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time involves cultural institutions of every size and character across Southern California, from Greater Los Angeles to San Diego and Santa Barbara to Palm Springs.

 

 

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