Norman Yonemoto, a Los Angeles artist who along with his younger brother, Bruce, created innovative video installations that often explored mass media, Hollywood and other forms of pop culture, has died. He was 67.
Yonemoto died Friday at his home in Venice. He had been in ill health since suffering a number of strokes, the last of which was in October, said Carole Ann Klonarides, a family representative.
Collaborating with his brother for nearly four decades, Yonemoto created video artwork that often appropriated the visual vernacular of Hollywood movies, television and advertising to challenge the viewer’s assumptions about the media.
Their work was widely exhibited in museums, including their 1999 career survey “Memory, Matter and Modern Romance” at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
An ironic sense of humor was often evident in many of their videos, including “Made in Hollywood” (1990), which starred Patricia Arquette as a naIve young woman trying to make it in the movie business.
The video was part of the brothers’ “soap opera” series that used the tropes of daytime TV to deconstruct mass-media archetypes and cliches. Another entry in the series was “Green Card” (1982), which followed a Japanese woman who marries a California surfer to obtain her green card.
At times, the artists turned more serious and intellectual, as with their video “Kappa,” featuring artist Mike Kelley playing the role of a water god. The video mixed Japanese and Western cultural references to tell a story inspired by the myth of Oedipus.
“Japan in Paris in L.A.” (1996) followed a Japanese artist’s voyage to Paris and featured some scenes set in mid-20th century L.A.
Yonemoto was born March 16, 1946, in Chicago. His mother had been sent to live at an internment camp in Tule Lake, Calif., during World War II. His father was a veteran of the U.S. Army. Both parents were originally from California, but because of U.S. policy toward Japanese Americans that encouraged the dispersal of the population, they had moved to Chicago. In the late ‘40s, the family moved to Northern California where his brother Bruce was born in 1949.
After studying at a number of institutions, including UCLA and the American Film Institute Center for Advanced Studies, Yonemoto and his brother embarked on a joint art career, creating their first video, “Garage Sale,” in 1976.
The brothers became widely respected in L.A.'s contemporary art scene, exhibiting their work in galleries and museums. In 2008, the J. Paul Getty Museum included their work in the survey “California Video,” an exhibition of work in the video medium spanning the last four decades.
Their work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and other institutions.
Yonemoto is survived by his partner, John Campbell, and by his brothers Bruce, Gerald and Roger.