Ono, Yoko (b. 1933). Acorn. New York: Algonquin Books, 2013. 6 1Ž2 x 5 1Ž2 in. printed book in slipcase, signed, inscribed and dated ‘Imagine Peace and Remember John Love, Yoko 2013’ and inscribed in Japanese ‘Keep the dream’ (on the inside fly-leaf).
A pioneer of Conceptual and performance art since her emergence in the 1960s, Yoko Ono is a renowned artist who has been associated with the avant-garde Fluxus and neo-Dada groups, among others. Always experimental in her practice, Ono evades strict categorization as an artist, and her work draws from her interest in the shared human experience and its authentic expression. Meanings and interpretations are not exact, but rather exist on the periphery of her work, and typically rely on audience involvement to complete the piece. Ono’s oeuvre is a powerful testament to the uplifting potential of art, and its ability to connect people with each other and their surroundings.
In Acorn, Ono provides a set of instructions, which are intended to engage the reader contemplation and an awareness of the present moment. These zen-like meditations invite the reader to perform both conceptual and physical exercises, and encourage the individual to experience the world differently. Poetic and lyrical, Ono’s incantations are evocatively worded, and they range from such straightforward missives as “Take your pants off / before you fight” to directing the reader to recount an early memory of the sky. Drawings by the artist intersperse the text, and relate interestingly, albeit spuriously, to the instructions that they oppose, providing additional fodder for meditation. On the whole, Ono’s oeuvre is expressive and graceful, making Acorn’s fluid beauty emblematic of the artist’s signature aesthetics.
The present lot shares several other similarities with Ono’s body of work, as well. With its performative aspect, requirement of audience participation and utilization of instructions, Acorn recalls such earlier and formative works of Ono’s as the seminal Cut Piece, first performed in 1964, in which the artist gave the audience the sole direction to cut, and sat on a stage while participants took turns cutting pieces of the artist’s clothing away. Another example of Ono’s influential public performance art is Wish Tree, a project in which Ono instructed viewers to write down their wishes on pieces of paper, and then tie those papers to the tree. The book additionally references Ono’s Grapefruit, a book of conceptual instructions published in 1964, which also provided exercises to be completed by the reader. Acorn, therefore, represents the culmination of Ono’s practice, theories and view of art as fundamentally experiential—strategies which forever changed the way the world viewed art.