Yoko Ono: The Artist Who Did It All

When viewing modern art, most people tend to quickly glance at the piece before them and move on. We judge how the piece was created, how realistic it is, what meaning we can get out of it and how we feel about it. For the most part, we think to ourselves, “we could have done this” and wonder how some modern art is worth millions of dollars. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I complete this exact process when I enter modern art museums. As much as I love art, sometimes I just can’t seem to understand these abstract pieces.

I went into the Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art with an open mind. Immediately upon entering, I was faced with a minimalistic color scheme and art facing me in every direction. There were bottles hanging from the ceiling, fabric stapled to the floor and videos projected on the walls. Rather than sticking to one artistic medium, Yoko Ono did it all. I have to admit that I really enjoyed that aspect of the show. She dabbled in every kind of art, ranging from performance to written word to painting.

As I walked through, my immediate reaction was that of confusion. I didn’t understand why there were people sitting in black bags and why visitors could join in and do the same. It all seemed a little weird to me. After looking at people rolling around in bags with a puzzled look on my face, I decided to read more about it. It turns out that Yoko Ono performed this piece, titled “Bag Piece”, in order to create a place of self-reflection. While sitting in the bag, the participant can view everything, but no one can view him or her. Yes, it seems incredibly odd upon first glance, but it forces you to really think. I enjoyed how Yoko Ono strived to make this exhibit more interactive with its viewers. We were no longer visitors of the museum, but active participants.

Another piece that stood out to me was “Grapefruit”. A written book of instructions, “Grapefruit” gave its viewers little directions that they could choose to enact or ignore. An entire wall was filled with these tiny, type-written notecards that shared simple phrases, such as “Light a match and watch till it goes out”. One instruction that I really admired was “Pea Piece”.  This written work of art, stating “Carry a bag of peas. Leave a pea wherever you go”, made me think about how many places we all go in one day. We are a generation that is constantly on the go. If I went around and placed a pea everywhere I went, I may be more attentive to how active and busy I am. This piece made me realize that our generation, and society as a whole, must take the time to stay in one place and truly appreciate it.

As you walk around the room and interact with the pieces, you start to notice the symbolism behind Ono’s work. She forces you to pay attention to her art, rather than glance and move on. Each viewer has the power to decide what he or she wants to do with this challenge. Each viewer can be a part of her performance art and mentally/physically experience what Ono experienced. Each viewer can listen to the music she created or walk upon the fabric she had cut.

Upon first glance, one might be extremely confused about her art. I definitely was when I walked in, but as I left, I felt like an active participant of the exhibit. You have a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the creation of art, which I found extremely inspirational. This exhibit allows its viewers to realize more about themselves, not just learn about the history or skill of an artist. Each piece had a reason for being there, whether it be about peace, equality, or self-love. It just takes an open mind and an active participant to make this exhibit worthwhile.

Although Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971 closed on September 7th at the Museum of Modern Art, you can learn more about Yoko Ono and this exhibit on MoMA’s website.