Indepth Arts News: |
"YES Yoko Ono"
2001-03-10 until 2001-06-17
Walker Art Center
Yoko Onos diverse career as an artist, poet, performer, and composer
might be summarized in the single word YES--an open-ended affirmation
that suggests the optimistic and inviting messages contained in her work.
The word itself has appeared in many of her compositions and objects, from
the 1960 score Lets Piece I (excerpted above) to the renowned Ceiling
Painting (YES Painting). The latter is a sculptural work in which viewers climb
a ladder to read a tiny, unimposing yes, almost like a whisper, printed on
a canvas suspended from the ceiling.
John Lennon and Ono met at the
London gallery where Ceiling Painting (YES Painting) debuted. He later
remarked: Its a great relief when you get up the ladder and look through
the spyglass and it doesnt say no . . . it says YES. That note of hope, as
well as its interactive aspect, have been leitmotifs in Onos work since the
1950s that continue to inform it today.
Y E S YOKO ONO presents more than 150
works created during the past 40 years that
explore these and other themes. Organized by
Japan Society, New York, the exhibition is
Onos first American retrospective since 1971.
The Walkers presentation is the first stop on
the shows international tour and will allow
visitors to explore the full range of her
achievement--from her early experiments with
music and performance to her well-known films
and sculptures to her more recent installations,
interactive objects, and drawings.
Ono was born
in Japan in
1933 and has
been a resident
of New York since the 1950s. Since the beginning
of her prolific career, she has consistently been a
pioneer in developing new art forms, moving
freely beyond and between genres, from
avant-garde to Pop. Her profoundly social art aims
to involve the viewer as an active participant and
to break down long-standing distinctions between
art and everyday life. Along with her interest in
chance and understatement, these characteristics
have allowed her work to play a key role in the
transmission of Asian thought to the international
During the 1960s Ono was a key participant in many of the innovations of the
New York, Tokyo, and London vanguards, including Fluxus, Conceptual Art, and
the underground film and performance scenes. When she married Lennon in 1969,
the couple made use of the media coverage surrounding their honeymoon to
campaign for world peace, a theme that suffused many of the collaborative pieces
they later created. Onos work of the 1990s has addressed themes of change,
survival, and time: relinquishing her status as an icon of nostalgia, she has
attempted with new material to reinvent herself.
Divided into five chronological and thematic
sections, the exhibition begins with works on
paper and printed matter produced during the
early 1960s. Central are Onos Instruction
Paintings, a set of written directions for
paintings to be constructed in your head.
These conceptual works are among the first
examples of pure language standing in for the
material of art. Another section features her
early sculptural works made of common, found
materials. Highlights include the installation
Half-A-Room (1967), a mock studio apartment
in which everything--from the teapot to the
armchair--has been cut in half. The exhibition
also offers a rare look at her work in film and
performance. Several films, including Fly
(1970) and the infamous No. 4 (Bottoms)
(1966), will be screened continuously in the
galleries. A 1965 performance of Onos now iconic event Cut Piece, in which she
invited audience members to cut away her clothing with a pair of scissors, will be
shown on video. Finally, the exhibition will present a selection of films,
photographs, and objects that examine her work as a peace activist (including her
collaborations with John Lennon) and a sampling of her objects, drawings, videos,
and installations made during the 1990s.
Throughout her career and across media, Ono has always invited the viewer to
participate in completing her works. She has compared her own process of making
art to writing a musical score for others to perform. Visitors to the exhibition will
be able to add their wishes, written on tags, to Wish Tree (1996/2000). They can
also play a game at her all-white chess set, Play It By Trust (1997), and navigate
the plexiglass labyrinth AMAZE (1971/2001).