‘Living legend’ lets loose at Louisiana

Yoko Ono joked at the press conference that we all knew so much about her already. It’s true that there are several preconceptions about Ono. Before the exhibition when I told friends that I was going to the opening of the Half- A- Wind Show: A Retrospective, their initial reaction was one of disdain. When pressed further they couldn’t really account for their strong feelings. After all, Ono was a respected artist in her own right before she met John Lennon, and yet even today, outside the art world their tumultuous relationship still overshadows her own achievements.

Until now. Dressed in black, with her signature hat and sunglasses tipped just below her eyes, Ono is warm and funny. On being asked about how she felt about the words ‘feminism’ and ‘idealism’, which are often used to describe her work, without missing a beat Ono retorted: “Well, I think they go together.” It was said with a sparkle in her eyes and a hint of a smile, not the cold detached presence that the media so often portrays. This humour is replicated throughout the exhibition.

‘Air Dispensers’ (1971) looks almost like pop art: the iconic sweet machines are lined up and filled with clear plastic capsules of air. For only 2kr, one can buy air capsules by Yoko Ono. It’s a statement perhaps on how everyone wants a piece of Ono, but the joke is well and truly on us.

‘Danger Box’ (1971), a plastic container with a circular hole on the top and the words “Warning: the management will not guarantee that a hand when put in this hole will come out in the same condition as prior to entry”, also raises a wry smile. The box is visibly empty and danger-free, and yet I daren’t put my hand inside.

The exhibition is loosely chronological, starting with work from the 1960s and finishing with a black and white video piece directed by Karl Lagerfeld in 2012. ‘Apple’ (1966), which is simply a green apple on a clear plinth, looks dangerously like the Beatles’ logo. There are small reminders of Lennon throughout the exhibition, such as his glasses, which have been dipped in copper in ‘Untitled’ (1988), and why shouldn’t there be. He was her husband for over ten years, after all.

On a practical level, the exhibition is suitable for younger visitors too as there are plenty of opportunities to interact with the art. ‘Telephone in Maze’ (1971) is a plexiglass maze that is surprisingly hard to navigate. At its core is a phone which the visitor is asked to answer if it rings. To enter the exhibition one must choose one of six different ways to pass through ‘En trance’ (1991), a wall with six different possibilities, including a slide and another that treats visitors to the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ effect. This is one of Ono’s largest architectural pieces.

Ono has always been inspired by architecture so it is unsurprising that her work fits in so comfortably at Louisiana. ‘Painting To Let The Evening Light Go Through’ (1966) is simply a square of transparent plexiglass hung in front of one of the gallery’s garden-facing windows. It perfectly captures the architects’ idea that the gallery should act as a frame for the stunning surroundings. Although there is not much variety in resources used in Ono’s work − transparent materials feature heavily − it is an exhibition of ideas, and for the most part they are well-thought out and witty.

It’s hard to believe that Ono is 80; she has the energy of someone at least 30 years younger. Even now there is still a strong element of the peace-loving, long-haired Ono sat in bed protesting. At the press conference Ono said she could feel all of our hearts beating together. A nice sentiment even if it is a little romanticised. When asked how it felt to be a living legend, which considering the level of security isn’t such an overstatement, Ono replied: “I don’t feel like a living legend. We are all living legends”.

YOKO ONO – HALF-A-WIND SHOW: A Retrospective
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Gl Strandvej 13, Humlebæk; started June 7, ends Sep 29; open Tue-Fri 11:00-22:00, Sat-Sun 11:00-18:00; www.louisiana.dk

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