Bruce Yonemoto is acclaimed for his collaborations with his brother Norman as well as for his independent practice. His work references the clichés and myths of American culture and the influence of media – most notably Hollywood productions – on society and culture. At the same time his work addresses issues such as identity, race and ethnicity and more generally universal preoccupations with time, life and death. The artist explores America’s collective memory and distorts reality into a semi-permanent state of illusion and stupor. We are faced with aspects of our daily lives that rarely appear as clear as in Yonemoto’s documentations and manipulations of memory. Although his practice often references America, his works have cross-cultural inferences to which viewers of different cultures can relate.
Of Japanese descent, the US-born and -raised artist explores issues of cultural and racial identity/stereotypes in the photographic series NSEW (2007). In this Hollywood-like staged production, Yonemoto ponders tradition and history, acknowledging Asian soldiers who have been omitted in the annals of the American Civil War. The models remind us that race and ethnicity do not necessarily coincide with cultural and national identity. The large scale of these photographs elicits a confrontational relationship with the viewer. Also on display is a selection of images from NSEW presented in small daguerreotype cases. The color portraits of the handsome Asian models in Civil War regalia are all the more curious when viewed in these original 19th century frames.
In addition to the NSEW series and older video and objects, Yonemoto will present a new work entitled Simulations (2009) – a video installation commissioned by Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. The work relates to the artist’s childhood memories surrounding his fascination with Disneyland. Reflecting on Baudrillard’s examination of Disneyland in his 1983 essay Simulations, published by Semiotext(e)’s New Foreign Agent Series, Yonemoto recreates the theme park’s iconic Matterhorn Mountain as a sculptural model, which is viewed simultaneously with the large time lapse video projection highlighting the process of its creation. The artist states that “Disneyland’s Matterhorn becomes the allegorical referent, the ‘hyperreal’ Matterhorn of our collective memory.” Recorded from home movies found on YouTube, screams from riders on the Matterhorn are interspersed with dialogue from the 50s TV series Disneyland, now commonly known as The Wonderful World of Disney. The rather ominous video, with the surreal movements of the rapid prototyping machine, also recalls Léger’s Le Ballet Mécanique and other experimental film work of the 1920s.