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Yoko Ono: Growing Freedom at Contemporary Calgary invites action through instruction

By Cristina Paolozzi, October 18 2020—

Although some may view her as controversial, Yoko Ono is a force to be reckoned with. Her popularity in the freedom movements and avante-garde art scene of the ’60s and ’70s brought energetic, thought-provoking performance-based art to the streets of New York City, while also advocating for world peace by public demonstration with late husband John Lennon. Although Ono is mostly known as the lover of the former Beatle, her expressive art truly speaks for itself. A household name in conceptual art, it’s always recommended to attend one of her gallery shows if you ever get the chance. 

Contemporary Calgary will be showing the exhibition Yoko Ono: Growing Freedom until Jan. 27th. This exhibit is being shown in two parts — her instruction works designed to have the visitor participate in the installation, as well as a timeline of art focused on her peace activism which she completed alongside Lennon. 

Ono’s interactive installations put the viewer in the centre of the piece, asking them to consider, revise, think, imagine and dream throughout the exhibition. One such piece, titled Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961), has the viewer take a nail from a small box, and hammer it into the hanging canvas wherever they like. It is unusual to interact so intimately with artwork, especially pieces hanging in a gallery, and even more awkward when tasked with banging a hole through the material. However, it is exactly this type of uncomfort that Ono implores you to feel. Rethinking the way we interact with what we know to be familiar is all a part of the construction and deconstruction of the boundaries of art. Throughout the exhibit, her instructions follow the viewer all over the walls. With titles such as LAUGH PIECE (1961), PAINTING TO BE CONSTRUCTED IN YOUR HEAD (1962) and END PIECE (1996), Ono’s clever and thought-provoking attitude can’t be missed. 

The second part of her exhibit focuses on the art created through demonstration and performance with Lennon, with special attention on the BED-IN FOR PEACE demonstration that took place in Montreal. This not only has some great pieces from this movement like hand-made signs, video footage from old media outlets and retro posters protesting against the Vietnam war, but also features the story, and a recording of the song Give Peace a Chance which was originally recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. If you’re a fan of the ‘70s era and want to discover a cool Canadian connection to the artwork of Yoko Ono, this is a must-see. 

Make sure you grab your tickets on Contemporary Calgary’s website, and stop by to see this world-class artist. 

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