PAINTING IN THREE STANZAS
Let a vine grow.
Water every day.
The first stanza - till the vine spreads.
The second stanza - till the vine withers.
The third stanza - till the wall vanishes.
Yoko Ono, originally in Japanese, from Grapefruit.
An Introduction to Yoko Ono
A Quick Biography
Yoko Ono, musician, poet and all around artist was born February 18th, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan. She was born into an old and extremely wealthy family of bankers. While growing up she moved back and forth between her father, who worked in America and her mother, who lived in Japan. She went to Gakushuin (former Imperial Court School turned into a private school and University) where she attended classes with the sons of the Emperor of Japan. So she was/is rich.
She studied classical music and opera and philosophy and many other arts while growing up. In 1952 Yoko became the first woman to be admitted into the philosophy program at Gakushuins' University. She dropped out after two semesters and moved to the United States to live with her parents in Scarsdale, New York and attended Sarah Lawrence College. She eventually dropped out (just because she is dropping out of these schools does not mean she was failing, she was excelling in school) and moved to Manhattan and met her first husband (of three, John Lennon being the third) a pianist named Toshi Ichiyangi. In the late fifties they were a part of the new avant garde Asian influenced art scene emerging in New York which would give birth to the Fluxus movement and she hung out and worked with John Cage (In her life she has produced art with John Cage, Andy Warhol, George Maciunas, John Lennon, Nam June Paik and many others). So she is talented.
A description of what Yoko Ono does.
I am not an expert on Yoko Ono. Up until a few weeks ago all I knew about Yoko Ono was seeing the video of her in bed with John Lennon, hearing she broke up the Beatles and the Simpsons episode where she hooks up with Barney (number 8..burrrrp…number 8….burrrrrp). It turns out there is a lot more going on. Or a lot of a little going on. The best way I can describe Yoko Ono's art work, her conceptual art, is interactive Haiku.
She has an enormous body of work spanning over forty years and many genres (her music, I feel, is best not discussed). She made movies both as stand alone expressions and as records of her performance art. A movie she made that really stands out for me is a five or so minute long film called Cut Pieces, which is a recording of a performance piece. This black and white movie has Yoko sitting on the stage of a theater and different people from the audience are invited to go up on stage and cut a piece from Yoko's black button down dress. People begin by cutting smallish pieces from the sleeves or neck and gradually she becomes more and more exposed. She becomes fragile and has an air of sadness and violation to her. The cutting continues and she gets more and more shaky. Finally a guy starts to cut down the center of the dress and cuts through her bras straps and her eyes are full of tears and she covers her breasts and the movie ends with a person off camera hissing at her.
That movie was a lot more intense and upsetting then most of her other stuff. Most of her other stuff is like the poem/instructions at the beginning of this wu which is taken from her first book Grapefruit : A Book of Instructions and Drawings. Grapefruit was published in Tokyo in 1964 and a different larger version in North America and England in 1970, Grapefruit is comprised of work she did from 1960 until its publication and contains paintings and drawings as well as the Instructions for Paintings: Simple instructions and drawings for the reader to imagine in their head. The phrasing of these short gems is always like haiku in its poignancy and grace. It really did clear my mind and insert simple images. It was also funny and moving to go through. Definetly worth checking out to get an idea of what Yoko is all about and to just enjoy yourself.
One of her more famous installations is Ceiling Painting, 1966, a white step ladder with a magnifying glass hanging from a framed board above the ladder, you walk up the ladder and look at the board the magnifying glass is hanging from and in tiny letters the word "YES" is written. Very neat. Another, more recent, installation of hers is Play It by Trust an all white chess board with all white pieces.
Yoko on e2
Painting Until It Becomes MarblePainting to Be Constructed in your HeadPainting for a Broken Sewing MachinePainting to Let the Evening Light Go ThroughPainting to Enlarge and SeePainting for the Burial
Yoko on art
The mind is omnipresent, events in life never happen alone, and the history is forever increasing its volume. The natural state of life and mind is complexity. At this point, what art can offer (if it can offer anything at all it seems to me) is an absence of complexity, a vacuum through which you are led to a state of complete relaxation of mind. After that you may return to the complexity of life again, it may not be the same, or it may be, or you may never return, but that is your problem.
quotes and descriptions from my trip to the excellent YES YOKO ONO exhibit currently touring around North America and then reading Grapefruit. Facts culled from various web pages, mostly instantkarma.com and cnn.com.