Partners In Art is proud to support The Riverbed
Acclaimed Japanese-American artist contemplative work to provide quiet counterpoint to the AGO's Kusama extravaganza
Yoko Ono’s “Mend Piece”, part of her exhibition The Riverbed, coming to the Gardiner Museum in February. (Christopher Burke, courtsy of the Gardiner Museum)
If you’re still vibrating from the online frenzy over Yayoi Kusama tickets at the AGO, which stuck people in online queues more than 12 hours long last week, then take heart: a slightly less hot ticket by a no less renowned octogenarian Japanese woman artist should provide the soothing calmness its aftermath might demand.
On Tuesday, the Gardiner Museum announced that it would host an exhibition of Yoko Ono’s work, opening this February, and it’s everything that Kusama’s glittering, perception-busting work is not. Called The Riverbed, the exhibition favours quiet contemplation over sparkly spectacle and roots itself in the dilemma of our times.
Ono, 84, however tied her public persona may be to the Beatles through her late husband, John Lennon, is one of the forebears of conceptual art, a movement born in the early ’60s that favoured the execution of ideas and action over the making of things.
The Riverbed is a quietly poetic call to action from the audience. In Mend Piece, an array of broken crockery is splayed on a table, with bottles of glue and lengths of string positioned invitingly throughout, and the appeal is clear: to sit down together and repair what was broken.
It’s’ a timely intervention for a fractious time, though it predates the current apex of things (the piece was first shown at the Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York in 2015). Still, The Riverbed eschews spectacle in a moment where simple gestures toward togetherness and belonging seem like radical things.
The exhibition will be a living, evolving document of collective action. Another work, Line Piece, asks viewers to string lengths of twine through the gallery, embodying both the vast distances between us and the stubborn connections that persist.
For Stone Piece, the last of the three to be seen here, Ono invokes equal parts conceptualism and the Japanese practice of Zen, which has informed much of her work. A pile of river rock, smoothed by rushing water, will be placed in the gallery. On each, Ono will have written a single word: “imagine,” “dream,” “remember.” Viewers will be invited to hold a stone as a cathartic act, purging anger and fear so prevalent in these tense times.
Far from denying the fractures of the current moment, Ono embraces them. “The Riverbed is over the river in between life and death,” she once said. “Most people are not aware their anger can take them across this river to the other side. It can.” That’s a bridge we could all use right now.
Yoko Ono, The Riverbed opens at the Gardiner Museum, 111 Queen’s Park, Feb. 20, 2018 and continues to June 3. See gardinermuseum.on.ca for more information.