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"YES Yoko Ono"
2001-03-10 until 2001-06-17
Walker Art Center
Minneapolis, MN, USA

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 art world.

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).


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