When I organized her first retrospective, in 1989, as the inaugural show of the Center for International Contemporary Arts in New York, the art world had forgotten about her. She had been scrubbed from the text books on American avant-garde art of the 1960s, even though she had been a vital if eccentric force in the downtown mix of Warhol, Oldenburg, Eva Hesse, and Carolee Schneeman.
Originally published in YES YOKO ONO. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
Yoko Ono. What comes to mind?
Extremes of opinion have shaped the public’s idea of Yoko Ono since she first emerged in the New York art world in the early 1960s. While her work has often confounded critics, her faith in the power of art to open and uplift the mind has touched millions. As an artist, poet, and composer working alternatively at the fringe and mainstream of culture, she has irked those who resist boundary-crossing. Yet she emerges, over and over, as a forerunner of new art forms that mix and expand different media. Her work as an antiwar activist, like the global ads for peace that she orchestrated with her husband, John Lennon, have offered a kind of public instruction that carries a profoundly positive and transformative message: Imagine.
For decades, people around the world have celebrated her meaning while critics looked on, perplexed.
Originally published in Contemporary Japanese Art in America I: Arita, Nakagawa, Sugimoto. Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
Japanese Artists in the American Avant-garde 1945–1970
By Alexandra Munroe
“This universality in art is unaffected by the breaking-up of art into names and nationalities. That is making arbitrary decisions for convenience and comfort. There is Russian art, Chinese art, American art and art of other nations… But these classifications are the grouping of superficial qualities or attributes and do not pertain to the fundamental character of art.”
“His career and oeuvre stand as proof that cultural origins are not binding. An authentic artist can transcend his background, neither accepting its givens without question nor abandoning all he knows; rather, by opening the patterns of his heritage to currents, cultural energies, from elsewhere.”