Volume 95, Issue 94

Wednesday, April 3, 2002
Search the Archives:
Tips for searching
Campus and Culture
Submit Letter
Contact Us
About the Gazette


Say YES to Yoko Ono's collection at the AGO

Unfortunately, Smoochy is already dead

Becoming a nightmare

Outside the Box

Care Bear stare causes enjoyment

Britney more savvy than Square

Trail, the Hives and Fellows breathe life into music

Say YES to Yoko Ono's collection at the AGO

By Brian Wong
Gazette Staff

It's probably fitting that the word "respect" is found in "retrospective."

YES Yoko Ono, a new exhibition commemorating Yoko Ono's 40-year career as an artist – on display now at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto – should finally win her the respect she deserves.

The show is roughly divided into six sections showcasing everything from Ono's objects and installations to her films and music that will delight, engage and most importantly – involve visitors. It also stands as a testament to Ono's major contributions to conceptual art and the radical Fluxus movement that saw art in everyday things and occurrences.

The first piece that graces the entrance of the exhibit is the infamous "Ceiling Painting (Yes Painting)," first displayed in London in 1966 where ex-Beatle and rock-icon John Lennon first encountered Ono.

The affirmative message is only accessible by climbing a white ladder and using a magnifying glass to read the text printed on a framed sheet fixed on the ceiling. Unfortunately, visitors are asked to keep off the ladder – probably in the interest of safety.

Positive and inspiring messages continue to run throughout the pieces and the sky motif is particularly prominent. Whether it's broadcasting a live picture of the sky on a television screen, projecting the picture through a piece of Plexiglas or her 1965 "Morning Piece" event in which she sold glass bottle fragments labelled as different mornings in the future, the work takes on the limitless expansiveness of the sky. Things are looking, well, up.

Imagination is also a central component to Ono's work. The set of 22 instruction paintings created in the early 60s exemplify the notions of conceptual art in which the idea becomes more important than the object itself. Instead of simply creating a piece to exhibit, Ono gives you the directions on how to create it, allowing the visitor the freedom to construct the final product in their minds.

In other works, the viewer is invited to use an eyedropper to "paint" with water on a Plexiglas pedestal, to take stones from a pile on the floor and place them in either the "Mound of Sorrow" or the "Mound of Joy" (lots of joyful people at the exhibit) and in "Telephone Piece," is ordered to pick up the phone when it rings to speak with Ono herself (Yoko, you didn't call!).

The ability for visitors to become participants and to interact with some of the work fits nicely with her collaborations with Lennon for the Peace Movement that encourage community and unity. This is represented here with film of their Bed-In campaign and photographs of their "War is Over!" billboards.

Arguably the most effecting piece is her film "Cut Piece," a 1965 performance in New York in which audience members walk up to the stage one-by-one, grab the pair of scissors that lie next to Ono and cut off a piece of her clothing. By the end of the film, Ono is left clenching the rags to cover her bosom. It's an exercise in vulnerability and pain, as well as a study of power and gender relationships that is attention-grabbing and astounding.

Perhaps the only part of the show that needs some fixing is a better sound barrier between the film rooms – the buzzing Ono soundtrack to "Fly No.13" interferes with the soundtrack of the butt-filled "Bottoms" housed next door.

Nonetheless, visitors will not only leave YES satisfied – they just might be enlightened too.

Gazette File Photo

BE MY YOKO LADDER... WHOA-OH. Yoko wasn't just the wife of John Lennon, she's also got talent of her own as seen in YES,  a show currently on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

YES Yoko Ono is on display at the AGO in Toronto until May 20. Call 416-977-0414 for more information.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2002