About us
Artists Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono Photo

Yoko Ono

Japanese-American Conceptual and Performance Artist, and Musician

Movements and Styles: Happenings, Fluxus, Performance Art, Conceptual Art

Born: February 18, 1933 - Tokyo, Japan

Yoko Ono Timeline

Quotes

"I thought art was a verb, rather than a noun."
Yoko Ono
"We're all water from different rivers,
That's why it's so easy to meet,

We're all water in this vast, vast ocean,
Someday we'll evaporate together."
Yoko Ono
"I see life as the playground of our lives."
Yoko Ono
"You may think I'm small, but I have a universe inside my mind."
Yoko Ono
"Art is my life and my life is art."
Yoko Ono
"Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you'll start to see a big difference in your life."
Yoko Ono

"What I'm trying to do is make something happen by throwing a pebble into the water and creating ripples...I don't want to control the ripples."

Yoko Ono Signature

Synopsis

Well before her famous partnership with John Lennon, Yoko Ono was the "High Priestess of the Happening" and a pioneer in performance art. Drawing from an array of sources from Zen Buddhism to Dada, her pieces were some of the movement's earliest and most daring. With unprecedented radicalism, she rejected the idea that an artwork must be a material object. Many of her works consist merely of instructions. In Cloud Piece (1963) for example, she instructs us to imagine digging a hole in the garden, and putting clouds into it. Ono faced the considerable challenge of remaining visible as an artist, not just a rock star's wife. For brief periods, the media's intrusive presence stopped her from working altogether. Remarkably, however, she persisted in sustaining a career that was well-established before Lennon's arrival on the scene, and which deserves to be admired in its own right.

Key Ideas

Ono's fundamental contribution to the formation of Conceptual Art was involving the audience into the completion of the work. It is designed so that anyone can make it - a crucial dimension of its meaning.
Ono was one of the strongest feminist voices to emerge from the art world in the 60s. Her Cut Piece (1964), a first for feminist art performance, invited audience members to take turns cutting off her clothes using a pair of scissors. It also brought the audience into close contact with the artist, which was a new concept and crossed traditional boundaries.
A path-breaking force in eliminating boundaries among the arts, in the early 1960s, Ono opened her home to dancers, composers, and artists and encouraged them to work together. The building of interdisciplinary community is another great area of achievement in her career, and a fundamental aspect of her practice.
A pioneer in music as well as art, Ono was trained as a classical pianist. She was also steeped in Japanese Imperial music (Gagaku). Her familiarity with both traditions captivated experimental Western musicians La Monte Young and John Cage (Cage's 4'33'' is essentially a translation of the famous Zen koan "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"). She in turn was influenced by them.
Experiences, events, and performances form the backbone of her artistic practice. In this respect she is the quintessential conceptual artist. Her work is designed to redirect our attention to ideas, instead of appearances.
Though her name has been unfairly associated with a woman who negatively affects a man's professional performance (Beatles fans often blame her for their breakup), Ono helped John become much more conceptual. She assisted him in moving away from the mainstream that the Beatles had previously inhabited, and encouraged him to develop an independent voice as a composer and musician.

Biography

Yoko Ono Photo

Early Years

Yoko Ono was the eldest of three children, born to Isoko and Eisuke Ono, conservative Japanese aristocrats. Yoko's mother was a painter. Her father wanted to be a concert pianist, but had given up his dream career to be a banker, and sought to live vicariously through his talented daughter Yoko, sending her to music school at the age of four. She later moved on to one of Japan's most exclusive schools, Gakushuin. Ono had a strained relationship with her mother, who resented her own children, feeling that they were a drain on her enjoyment of upper class life in Tokyo. She later told Ono never to marry and never to have children. Ono's childhood was isolated. Despite being wealthy, she was neglected by her parents, who were too busy to show affection. As a child, she rang for the maid simply in order to see someone. Her creativity and musicality provided the comfort she very much needed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Yoko Ono Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Yoko Ono
Interactive chart with Yoko Ono's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Meret OppenheimMeret Oppenheim
Walter de MariaWalter de Maria
George MaciunasGeorge Maciunas
George BrechtGeorge Brecht
Marcel DuchampMarcel Duchamp

Personal Contacts

John CageJohn Cage
Jackson Mac LowJackson Mac Low

Movements

HappeningsHappenings
DadaDada

Influences on Artist
Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono
Years Worked: 1956 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Marina AbramovićMarina Abramović
Charlotte MoormanCharlotte Moorman

Personal Contacts

Andy WarholAndy Warhol
Keith HaringKeith Haring
Peggy GuggenheimPeggy Guggenheim

Movements

FluxusFluxus
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Performance ArtPerformance Art
Feminist ArtFeminist Art

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Laura Fiesel

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Laura Fiesel
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Ruth Epstein
Available from:
[Accessed ]