"Yes Yoko Ono" Unveils The Identity Of A true ArtistRemembered mostly as the evil Japanese lady who broke up the legendary rock group "The Beatles," Yoko Ono has borne the jealousy and denunciation of millions of irate Beatles fans ever since her fabled relationship with John Lennon became known to the public. The "dragon lady," as the press referred to her, was not only accused of disbanding the Beatles, but also putting "evil spells" on Lennon. The fact that Ono was a talented and animated avant-garde artist herself at the time escaped the press" attention. To them, more importantly, she was a target for the latest gossip. Though she continued to write and make art even after her marriage, some in collaboration with Lennon as well, her works were never taken very seriously by the public. But after forty years of work, Ono"s art may finally be ready to escape the dead rock singer"s immense shadow.
"Yes Ono Yoko," the artist"s first big retrospective, said to have been five years in the making, has been on display in Seoul at the Rodin Gallery from June 21, and will continue through September 14. Seoul is the first city in Asia to showcase the exhibition. The exhibition includes 126 works, covering the period from the 1960"s to the present, and focusing primarily on the 60"s and the 70"s. The show is organized into six chronological sections, bearing names such as "Grapefruit" and "Half-A-Wind."
On entering the gallery, one can spot "Ceiling Painting (YES Painting)," the work that first attracted John Lennon to the almost unknown young artist of the time: a small wooden ladder that leads up to the ceiling, and a magnifying glass hanging nearby. Going up the ladder and looking at the ceiling through the glass, one can make out the tiny typescript "YES." Describing this creation, Lennon later recollected: "It was so positive, I felt relieved..."YES" made me stay."
Such affirmation is still present in all of Ono"s art. Her positive energy had been a surprisingly new, though needed sensation opposed to the negative, often disruptive fluxus art of the time. In an interview, Ono explains the need for this impetus: "My view of life is that there were many incredible negative ele-ments in my life, and in the world, and I had to balance that by activating the "Yes" element. "Yes" is an expression that I always carried and that I"m carrying now."
One of her most recent works that displays this positive attitude is ?lay by Trust, a huge chess table that hosts ten sets of chess games, all painted in snow-white. Opponent and self are indistinguishable by color, and without complete trust the game cannot be played. There are mini models of this piece in the entrance hall of the exhibition so that viewers can freely participate in the game as well.
Apart from being a talented artist, singer, and a composer, Ono has also been known as an active feminist. Many of her works portray her idea of feminism. Among them, ?ut Piece is her most important performance work. In this piece, Ono sits motionlessly on stage and invites the audience to cut her clothing away for forty minutes, until she is nearly naked. Though she does not say a word, through the vulnerability of her gaze she offers a social commentary on the violence against women by the society. Through this successful performance, she began to be acknowledged as a true artist.
From composing to filming, her artistic energy seems to know no limits. However, her continuing interest seems to be dedicated to the topic of peace. As a child, she had suffered from WWII in Japan. In her biography she recollected having gone from door to door looking for food for her family. Memories of the war left her with a deep yearning for peace. In fact, the whole fifth section of the exhibition, "War Is Over!" seems to be dedicated to the subject, featuring various anti-war works and performances she made during the Vietnam War. One of the most scandalous performances was "Bed-In For Peace," when Ono and Lennon invited the press over to their honeymoon vacation for seven days, holding press conferences and publicizing their idea of peace. It was not what the public had expected, but as Lennon said, "It was a great advertisement for peace." Other works such as posters made in 16 different languages stating "War Is Over, If You Want It!" were on view.
Yoko Ono is perhaps the most famous widow in the world. But unfortunately this fame had been achieved at the expense of her art career. "The most famous unknown artist; everyone knows who she is, but no one knows what she does," was how John Lennon put it. Hopefully this retrospective exhibition will finally grant her the rightful chance to be reevaluated and fully appreciated as an artist, and no longer thought of simply as a famous rock star"s widow.
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