Yes Yoko Ono
Yes Yoko Ono
By Alexandra Munroe with Jon Hendricks. Contributions by Kristine Stiles
and Edward M. Gomez '79. Abrams. 352 pages. $60
Duke art and art history professor Stiles and art critic-writer-designer Gomez are two of the major contributors to this thick, lushly produced catalogue for the Japan Society exhibition. Yes Yoko Ono celebrates the prolific and eclectic forty-year career of the Japanese artist. Ono has been in the forefront of the avant-garde for decades, from the Fluxus movement and Conceptual art to work in film and activism. The book, which includes an anthology of Ono's writings, an illustrated chronology, and a CD of new music by Ono, is the first comprehensive art book devoted to her challenging and influential work.
Japan Society Gallery
333 East 47th Street
New York, NY 10017
Oct 20, 2000-Jan 14, 2001
Public May Call:
News release from Japan Society, June 29, 2000:
New York - YES YOKO ONO, the first American retrospective of the work of pioneering avant-garde artist Yoko Ono, opens at Japan Society Gallery on October 18, 2000 and runs through January 14, 2001. In her prolific 40-year career Ono has embraced a wide range of media, defying traditional boundaries and creating new forms of artistic expression. The exhibition features approximately 150 works from 1960 to the present, with a focus on her early period, and includes objects and installations; language works, such as instruction pieces and scores; film and video; music; and performance art.
After its premiere in New York, YES travels to several venues in the United States, including the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (March 10-June 17,2001); the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (July 13-September 16, 2001); the MIT-LIST Visual Arts Center, Cambridge (October 18- January 6, 2002); the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (February 22-May 20, 2002); the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (June 22-September 8, 2002); and elsewhere in North America and Asia.
The exhibition offers the first comprehensive reevaluation of Ono's work, exploring her position within the postwar international avant-garde, and her critical and influential role in originating forms of avant-garde art, music, film and performance.
YES examines her early and central role in Fluxus, an avant-garde movement that developed in New York in the early 1960s; her important contributions to Conceptual Art in New York, London and Tokyo; her concerts; experimental films; vocal recordings; public art, including works made with John Lennon; and recent works, including interactive installations and site-specific art. Such avant-garde figures as John Cage, George Maciunas, Nam June Paik, Charlotte Moorman, Andy Warhol and Ornette Coleman collaborated with Ono, and work from these collaborations is also represented.
Accompanying the exhibition will be the book, YES YOKO ONO, the first major art publication surveying Ono's artistic career, co-published by Japan Society and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. A musical CD of new works by the artist will also be included.
"Yoko Ono's contribution is not specific to any genre; rather, it is her capacity to make forms beyond and between genres - to crossover from high to low, underground to pop - that distinguishes her extraordinary creation," says Alexandra Munroe, Director Of Japan Society Gallery and exhibition curator. "Her use of chance and minimalism, and her investigation of everyday life have played a key role in the transmission of Asian thought to the international art world."
The exhibition title, YES YOKO ONO, refers to the interactive object known as Ceiling Painting, an important work shown at Ono's historic 1966 Indica Gallery show in London. The viewer is invited to climb a white ladder, where at the top a magnifying glass, attached by a chain, hangs from a frame on the ceiling. The viewer uses the reading glass to discover a block letter "instruction" beneath the framed sheet of glass - it says "YES." It was through this work that Ono met her future husband and longtime collaborator, John Lennon.
Born in Tokyo in 1933 into a prominent banking family, part of Japan's social and intellectual elite, Ono received rigorous training in classical music, German lieder and Italian opera. She attended an exclusive school where her schoolmates included Japan's present emperor, Akihito, and Yukio Mishima, destined to become a world-renowned novelist who committed ritual seppuku to protest Japan's Westernization. Ono, raised partly in America, witnessed Japan's devastation in World War II, and by the time she entered Gakushuin University in 1952 as its first female philosophy student, she was swept up by the intellectual climate of the postwar Japanese avant-garde. This movement was characterized by a spirit of rebellion against all orthodoxy, a yearning for individual self-expression, and a desire for spiritual freedom in a landscape reduced to absolute nothingness by the ravages of warfare.
Disillusioned with academic philosophy, Ono left Japan to join her family in New York, where her father was an executive of the Bank of Tokyo, America. Attending Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, she soon gravitated to the vibrant art community of lower Manhattan. At the time, non-Western cultures, especially those of China and Japan, were inspiring new forms of artistic expression. Ono was welcomed as a representative of that Eastern sensibility that found beauty and art in everyday existence and chance events, and favored artistic expression and thought through interactive participation.
A loose association of these artists was eventually formed under the name of Fluxus. The group experimented with mixing poetry, music and the visual arts, through a wide spectrum of activities, including concerts and exhibitions. As a member of Fluxus, Ono presented her early works, launching a career that would take her back to Japan, where she became an active member of the Tokyo avant-garde, and again to New York, and then to London, where the 1966 Indica Gallery show, that inlcuded Ceiling Painting took place.
In the decades since the Indica Gallery show, Ono has continued to enlarge the boundaries of her art in diverse media. After her marriage to John Lennon in 1969, she collaborated with him on a number of projects in music, creating a bridge between avant-garde and rock in such releases as Unfinished Music for Two Virgins (1968), Wedding Album (1969), and Double Fantasy (1980). Their happenings, Bed-Ins For Peace and the billboard campaign, War is Over! If You Want It were landmark projects created to promote world peace, a continuing theme in their work together.
During the 1980s, influenced by the rampant materialism of the decade, Ono revisted some of her 1960s objects, transforming works that were originally light and transparent into bronze, symbolizing a shift from what she calls "the Sixties sky" to the new "age of commodity and solidity." In the 1990s Ono's prolific output of interactive installations, site-specific works, Internet projects, concerts and recording have been widely represented in numerous venues across Europe, America, Japan and Australia.
More Japan Society Gallery Information:
YES YOKO ONO Exhibition Themes
Facts About the Accompanying Book