Yoko Ono returns to MOMA for “One Woman Show, 1960–1971″

By on May 18, 2015

Giving herself her own unofficial show at MoMA in 1971, with spirited playfulness Yoko Ono created her own debut at the museum by creating an invitation in the form of an ad that she placed in the New York Times and Village Voice announcing “Yoko Ono—One Woman Show,” running “Dec. 1–15.” Through suggestion alone, people were allowed to believe that Ms. Ono had released a large jar of flies in the museum’s sculpture garden, and invited people to follow them throughout the city. She even documented the happening that didn’t happen with a self-created catalogue

“But of course there were no flies, and no jar. It was just in your mind.” – Yoko Ono

This wonderful construct of Ono’s, presenting herself at MoMA through the use of cut-ups and suggestion, is a core of her work: Being is something you do. Being is art.

moma_yokoono039949 Yoko Ono interacting with people activating Bag Piece (1964), a participatory work in Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971, on view at MoMA, May 17 -September 7, 2015. Photo by Ryan Muir © Yoko Ono

More than forty years later, and more than fifty years after she began her work, MoMA is fêteing the artist with an actual, physical, one woman show focusing on her work from 1960–71, leading up to her own stage exhibition that wasn’t, and which now is fully corporeal. Concepts have been Ono’s main forte, many of which were compiled into her most famous publication, “Grapefruit,” and which are represented at MoMA with the individual pages in their own frames, her instructional texts occupying an entire wall in a line from one end to the other.

GRAPEFRUIT Grapefruit (detail). Photo by Shade Rupe.

Nearly 125 objects occupy the sixth-floor space, on display from May 17–September 7, ranging from “Apple” (1966) a green apple on a pedestal where it will sit until it rots, through her works with Fluxus, the interactive ‘Painting to Be Stepped On,’ (1960/61) and, remarkably, the piece that led to her relationship with musician John Lennon, “Ceiling Piece” (1966), a white-painted ladder that leads to a hanging magnifying glass to enlarge a single word on a glass pane near the ceiling, “YES.”

CEILINGPIECE Ceiling Piece (1966). Photo by Shade Rupe.

Further interactive pieces include “Bag Piece” (1964), where visitors can snuggle into a black body bag and morph themselves into various shapes on a platform, the area also illustrated with photograph of a June 1965 performance of the piec, and the newly inaugurated “To See the Sky” (2015), a black metal circular staircase that visitors ascend to the glass skylight above.

Her 1966 exhibition at Indica Gallery in London included the aforementioned “Ceiling Piece,” along with “Add Color Painting” (1961/66) and “Painting a Hammer to a Nail” (1961/66), both also on display in the current exhibition. When the man who would soon give Ono the title of her song “Mrs. Lennon” dropped by Indica the night before its opening, he was so taken by her work he signed his full name, including middle name Winston, to the guest book, and also left his home address. The pair eventually began to work together, resulting in several films (with only a scant few are on display in MoMA’s exhibition) including the peace campaign “Bed-In,” and together they launched the Plastic Ono Band.

BOTTOMS White Chess Set (1966), Film No. 4 (1966), doorway to “Plastic Ono Band” room. Photo by Shade Rupe.

A room at the far end of the exhibition, with her ‘bottoms’ film “No. 4” projected on a loop outside, is emblazoned with “Plastic Ono Band” and upon entering Ono’s varied warbles fill the space, with a glass table displaying many 7” singles and album releases, and posters on the walls. A recreation of the plastic model that Mr. Lennon created shows the care and interest the musician had with the artist, a relationship that would create the mélange of Sean Ono Lennon, who revived Plastic Ono Band with his mother in 2009.

One of the few of her films on display shows through two unsynchronized projectors, “Fly” (1971), in a smaller room along with her catalog for her 1971 show. Further pieces inviting interaction are a public chessboard in the sculpture garden, and a June 21 international Yoko Ono Morning Peace where ticketed guests meet at 4:30 am in the sculpture garden on the solstice, a nod to “Morning Piece (1964) to George Maciunas” 1965. The $25 tickets go on sale June 1 at MoMA.org/poprally.

An audio tour featuring a newly recorded commentary by Ms. Ono is available free of charge and can also be downloaded via MoMA’s free app for use with your own device.

About Shade Rupe

Shade Rupe is the author of Funeral Party 1 and 2, and Dark Stars Rising, a collection of interviews with Divine, Crispin Glover, Gaspar Noe, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Udo Kier, Tura Satana, and many more. He co-directed the live recording of Teller of Penn & Teller’s off-Broadway show Play Dead. He was a featured guest on "Bravo’s Scariest Movie Moments" alongside Stephen King, John Landis, Guillermo Del Toro, Peter Jackson, and more. He is now working on an updated edition of Dark Stars Rising to include new interviews with Norman Reedus, William Friedkin, John Boorman, and more. Visit him at shaderupe.com.