Exhibition of JA Art, Design and Activism in Postwar L.A. Opens Oct. 15

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Orange Crate Label Series (1974-81): "WWIII Brand" (1974-81), Ben Sakoguchi. Acrylic on canvas 10 x 11 in. © Ben Sakoguchi. Collection of Marcia and Ed Nunnery.

"Cemetery Monument at Manzanar, California, One of Ten Concentration Camps in the U.S. That Incarcerated Over 120,000 Americans of Japanese Descent During WWII" (2009), Courtesy of Robert A. Nakamura. © Robert A. Nakamura

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 and Activism in Post-War Los Angeles,” opening Saturday, Oct. 15, and running through Feb. 19, 2012, in JANM’s Pavilion, First and Central in Little Tokyo.

This exhibition is part of the project “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” an unprecedented collaboration initiated through grants from the Getty Foundation of more than 50 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 takes place for six months beginning in October, 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 will give a glimpse of the changing ways that Japanese Americans created visions of and for themselves and their communities. Among the works of art featured 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 Great Leap founder 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;

• Copies of the original Gidra magazine from the 1970s.

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.

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 arts programs director for the Peter Norton Family Foundation. She has an MA in art history from UCLA.

A series of public programs will be held in conjunction with the exhibition from December to February.

Museum hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday; 12 to 8 p.m. Thursday; closed Monday, Thanksgiving day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. For more information, call (213) 625-0414 or visit www.janm.org.

Untitled drawing (Stingray), Larry Shinoda. Pencil on paper. Collection of Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Shinoda Family, Japanese American National Museum.

Performance still from “Ghost in the Machine” (1981), Linda Nishio. Photo by Elizabeth Ennis. Courtesy Linda Nishio.

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