Yoko Ono is best know for her visceral performances, the work she did with John Lennon and solo records like “Walking on Thin Ice.” Her artistic breakthrough came in the early Sixties when she challenged the conventions of composing with a series of gatherings at her Chambers Street loft.
“I don’t remember the first performance so much,” Ono tells Rolling Stone. “The next day was very heavy snow, and John Cage, David Tudor and Peggy Guggenheim – those people – came all the way from Stony Point to New York City to just come to my concert. I was very impressed about that.”
Photos from this loft appear toward the beginning of Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971, a new retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. Visitors then move through rooms of malleable paintings, “scores” written for Cage and later music made with the Plastic Ono Band. All find the artist pushing the possibilities of her various mediums and questioning the boundaries that divide both people and genres.
“She’s really a pioneering voice among her generation,” curator Christophe Cherix tells Rolling Stone. He says that presenting these pieces in an exhibition is challenging, as many of them were based around performance or are purposefully ephemeral. “Yoko Ono’s work is in the world; it’s not here in this museum,” he explains. “What we can do is bring traces, and with her help, we kept the show as lively possible”
Above, watch Cherix and Ono break down this work and take us through the MOMA’s galleries. “It’s a very, very interesting development for me,” the latter says, smiling as she reflects on her career’s unusual path.