Yoko Ono: To The Light, Serpentine Gallery, London
Due to her indelible association with John Lennon, Yoko Ono’s impact on culture goes far beyond her work as an artist. This has been a curse and a blessing for her.
It has taken time for institutions to acknowledge her work, which was pioneering, both as an artist and an activist - but deserved recognition is coming, including a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and this retrospective exhibition at the Serpentine.
To The Light, however, is mixed in quality – ranging from the wonderful to the awful. There are interactive works that attempt to capture images of everyone in the world smiling, and trees on which you can hang your handwritten wishes outside the entrance to the gallery. It’s cloying work – and while obviously well-meaning – clichéd and ineffective.
On the other hand Ono’s instructional text works, published in Grapefruit (1964), are interesting experiments into formal execution. Painting to Be Stepped On (1964) reads ‘leave a piece of canvas or finished painting on the floor or in the street’. This is accompanied by a dirty, scuffed piece of canvas on the floor, which nonetheless manages to absorb some beauty alongside the grime of the floor and grubby shoes.
Much of it is so very “meaningful” – a tiny text painting at the top of a ladder that reads ‘Yes’, or Cut Piece (1964), a performance work of which we see two documentations from 1962 and 2003, in which audience members cut off the artist’s clothes, while she sits, looking victimised.
The labyrinth titled Amaze (1971/2012) demonstrates both the good and bad elements of Ono’s work. Made chiefly from Perspex, it is a maze that looks as thought it should be easy to navigate, because the walls are see-through. But its very clarity renders it confusing and it’s easy to get lost. At the very centre is a container filled with water, which reflects the ceiling of the Serpentine Gallery, but it’s this ‘profound’ moment that is the most disappointing. Getting lost, amused and confused was the good part.
The really strong works here are those that don’t have this knowing profundity – Film No.4 (Bottoms) (1967) is a film of different buttocks, their creases creating a cross on the screen. The butt cheeks of the various subjects seem to nudge and kiss one another in a sweet, jolly fashion as they move their legs up and down. Fly (1970) in which fruit flies explore a woman’s naked body, is equally compelling, giving us the perspective of a tiny, light creature on the alien landscape of the body. Both of those works give us an alternative vision of the world, rather than easy answers.
To 9 September (www.serpentinegallery.org)
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Fish Love: Broadchurch star Arthur Darvill poses nude with un poisson
Liam Gallagher slams Daft Punk: 'I could have written Get Lucky in an hour'
Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
After 61 films, including The Hangover Part III, Heather Graham admits she still likes to boogie
- 1 What, let gays get married? We must be bonkers
- 2 Rocky Horror star Tim Curry 'suffers major stroke'
- 3 Exclusive: How MI5 blackmails British Muslims
- 4 EDL marches on Newcastle as attacks on Muslims increase tenfold in the wake of Woolwich machete attack which killed Drummer Lee Rigby
- 5 Farewell, Shameless. Your heirs have work to do
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.