Ono, Yoko

Ono, Yoko, 1933- , Japanese-American conceptual artist, songwriter, and recording artist, b. Tokyo, Japan. Ono’s father was a banker and her mother was trained as a classical pianist. After World War II, the family moved to Scarsdale, N.Y. Ono enrolled at Sarah Lawrence College in 1953, and began making trips into New York City, where she met avant-garde artists LaMonte Young and John Cage. In 1956, she left school to elope with her first husband, Japanese composer Toshi Ichiyanagi, returning to Japan, but the marriage ended in 1962; she subsequently wed Anthony Cox, a filmmaker and jazz musician/composer. In the early ‘60s, Ono settled in New York, becoming a leader in the Fluxus art movement. Ono organized a series of concerts and events in downtown New York, premiering performance pieces including Cut Piece (1964) and making several experimental films, including No. 4 (aka Bottoms; 1966). She was invited to display her work in London in fall 1966, where John Lennon first encountered her art. The two created several albums of experimental music together, beginning with Unfinished Music No. 1: Two Virgins (1968) and wed in 1969. That year, they staged several “Bed Ins” as a means of protesting the Vietnam War. Lennon and Ono formed the Plastic Ono Band, a loose group of musicians, to perform on stage and their albums in 1969. Ono’s most notable release of this period was the album Fly (1971). When Lennon decided to return to recording in 1980, Ono participated in their joint album Double Fantasy and subsequently released her solo album, Season of Glass (1981) after Lennon’s murder. Ono returned to making artworks and installations and recording, while also preserving Lennon’s legacy. Major retrospectives of her work include Yoko Ono: Objects, Films (Whitney Museum, New York, 1989), Y E S YOKO ONO, which toured 13 museums in the US, Canada, Japan, and Korea from 2000-03, and Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971 (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2015). Ono’s influence on art and popular culture has been noted by artists as diverse as the B-52s and Katy Perry.

See her Grapefruit (1964), Everything in the Universe is Unfinished (2018); Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 (2015, with J. Bryan-Wilson, et al.); study by L. Carver (2012).

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