YOKO ONO’S ONE WOMAN SHOW
By Naomi Barling
44 years after her first MoMA exhibition, the 82-year-old conceptual artist, Yoko Ono is finally on her way back to the museum with a full solo exhibition. Opening May 17, Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 will be a bit more palpable. The exhibition will survey the works from the tumultuous decade that led up to her 1971 performance art action, including objects, works on paper, installations, performances, audio recordings, and films.
Her early experimental and conceptual pieces like her well know performance Cut Piece, which was a feminist art installation staged in 1964, were fundamental in her creating her public image as an artist. Cut Piece confronted issues of gender, class, and cultural identity. Most of her work addressed socio-cultural issues and the zeitgeist was always an importance influence in her work. For this piece, Ono knelt on the ground with a pair of scissors placed at her side. The audience was invited to participate in the artwork by coming forward and cutting off any item of her clothing they wished. Slowly the atmosphere went from polite to quite aggressive as her clothes were reduced to rags and she stayed knelt before the audience in her underwear.
Other early works were often based on instructions that she would communicate to viewers in verbal or written form. For example; Painting to Be Stepped On 1960-1961, invited viewers to walk on a piece of canvas that was lying on the floor. Though a lot of her work has gone unnoticed over the years her ideas radically questioned the divide between art and the everyday by asking viewers to participate. Another controversial piece was Film No. 4, which again focuses on the human body like Cut piece, though with a very different message and outcome. The film was a sequence of naked moving bottoms, and was meant to represent Ono’s desire to break down class hierarchies by focusing on this universally shared feature.
The exhibition at MoMA presents a fully illustrated catalogue, featuring three newly commissioned essays that evaluate the cultural context of Ono’s early years, and five separated sections that reflect her geographic locations during this exciting and inspiring period and the corresponding progression of her artistic processes. Each chapter includes an introduction by a guest scholar, artwork descriptions, primary documents gathered from newspapers and magazines, and a selection of texts and drawings that the artist chose herself. The show will hopefully leave no doubt in our minds of her influence.