Yoko Ono: One Woman Show: 1960–1971

Instructions for Paintings

Yoko Ono. Instructions for Paintings. 1961/1962

Yoko Ono. Smoke Painting. 1961/1962. From Instructions for Paintings. 1962. Ink on paper, 9 13/16 × 14 15/16″ (25 × 38 cm). Gilbert B. and Lila Silverman Collection, Detroit. © Yoko Ono 2015

Curator, Christophe Cherix: In 1962, Ono returned to Japan to present a concert and an exhibition of her work, and she ended up staying for two years. She had already exhibited instructions inviting viewers to interact with her artworks. Now, she distilled the works to the text itself.

Yoko Ono: So by then, I thought why don't I just display the instructions? And it was beautiful. You know, I like the idea of doing something that stimulates people's mind and, of course, they can use their own creativity to think about it. Because now I see that when somebody's playing Beethoven and they could be very good, but it was not their voice, it was not their musical notes. And so when we do something that is now, then it's very different. Can we do something really fresh and energetic, you know?

Christophe Cherix: Ono created instructions that would allow each viewer to transform an idea with his or her own vision. This approach came to her early in life.

Yoko Ono: It was a very difficult time.

Christophe Cherix: Ono, recalling her childhood in Japan during World War II.

Yoko Ono: We didn't have much food. And I saw that my brother, who's younger than me, looking sad. And there's no smile. And I was thinking, oh, I know, why don't we create a menu? And I started to say, well, and desserts can be ice cream, you know, like that. And he was feeling so good. And it was so refreshing and so fresh and beautiful. I thought, this is it, it's great? And that gave me an idea that there are a lot of things you can do in art. This has followed me all my life.

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