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Y E S Yoko Ono Hardcover – October 1, 2000
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Don't be fooled by the metallic cover: although this extensively documented book finally gives Yoko Ono her due as a protean conceptual and performing artist, YES Yoko Ono is no celebrity bio. It is actually a rigorous analysis--by experts in modern Japanese and contemporary Western art, performance, video, and music--of the innovative approaches that made Ono a seminal avant-garde figure in the Fluxus movement of the 1960s and continued to influence her work during the next three decades.
Ono was born in 1933 in Japan to a wealthy and pedigreed family. In her early work, the pan-artistic classical Japanese approach to culture mingles with her Zen-like search for moments of concentrated sensory experience and the anti-heroic stance of the young American artists she would meet in New York upon her arrival (with her first husband, a composer) in 1956. Also significant was her sense of herself as an outsider. She spent her early childhood in the U.S. with her family, only to be snubbed by Japanese schoolmates on her return.
In Secret Piece, from 1953, Ono wrote a musical score consisting of nothing but two half-notes in the bass line and a scribbled notation: "With the accompaniment of birds singing at dawn." It became one of the brilliantly inventive instructions for making art pieces in her 1964 book, Grapefruit, an early conceptual work. Since those heady days, she has continued to explore the possibilities, stumbling sometimes (the inert bronze sculptures of the '80s) but never abandoning her fascination with elemental feeling and observation.
YES Yoko Ono accompanies an exhibition at the Japan Society Gallery in New York (October 18, 2000, through January 14, 2001) that will travel to numerous venues in North America and Asia, beginning with the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. --Cathy Curtis
Some, tongue-not-so-firmly-in-cheek, claim that before Yoko Ono met John Lennon, she was an obscure artist, hanging out on the fringes of the New York art world in the early '60s. Still others think of Ono with Lennon only, and their point of reference will be her work as an antiwar activist and then as a composer. But for each of the aforementioned guises one impression is ever present and can be summed up in one word--dilettante. Now comes this stunning catalog of the Ono YES exhibition that opened at the Japan Society Gallery in October and will travel to several venues for the next two years. The exhibition displays Ono's early conceptual paintings and objects, documentary photographs covering her early concert and performance work from 1961, photographs of Ono and Lennon's happenings, and her recent efforts to transform much of her early, ephemeral works into bronze. Japanese art historian Munroe is the curator and provides the introductory essay to the work of a well-trained and productive artist. Bonnie Smothers
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Top Customer Reviews
I became a fan of her art in the 60's when I read about some of her "performance" art; one favorite; she dressed herself in her best dress,gave scissors to members of an audience, sat down in a chair and encouraged them to take snips out of her dress. At first, people were shy to do so, then as one or another became bolder and snipped bits from the dress, the group became practically frenzied and she felt even worried they would go farther than just snipping a dress with the shears. A wonderful elucidation of human behavior and original; it gave new insight into ourselves and thus was truly a work of art. Other works that impressed me were photos of the bottoms of bare feet, from under a glass surface, and of course the film of buttocks, which I personally never did have a chance to see, but loved the idea of.
This book is a tremendous resource of information into Yoko Ono's varied art including her music. (No reason why a CD can't be part of a book, great idea.) This book is a fine retrospective, and I only regret that Yoko Ono will never fully take her place in modern art because of the diluting influence of pop culture on her history, and because conceptual art still has not been given the same validity as other media. (Christo perhaps is the only one to have transcended this barrier, because he sells prints of his monumentally engineered and staged concepts.)