Critics’ Picks

Ceiling Painting (YES Painting), 1966.

Ceiling Painting (YES Painting), 1966.

San Francisco

“Y E S Yoko Ono”

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
151 Third Street
June 22–September 8, 2002

Walking through the elegantly installed “Y E S Yoko Ono” feels like drinking from a tall glass of cool water—an idea that echoes the indelible image on the cover of her 1981 album, Season of Glass. The retrospective, organized by the Japan Society, New York, and curated by Alexandra Munroe, however, barely alludes to the tragic aspects of that picture. Instead, the show presents the artist’s many iconic objects, the conceptual “actions,” “ideas,” and “pieces,” in rooms accented with ethereal blue wall paint and plenty of Plexiglas. It’s all clean, airy, and a bit removed—like the current iteration of the 1966 Sky TV, a live feed of the sky above the museum, with “THIS IS NOT HERE” scrawled on the wall beneath. Yet Ono’s work, like much else that came from the Fluxus movement, seems oddly corporeal—see the fab films No.4 (Bottoms) (1966) and Fly (1970) or the sprawling, goofy Amaze, 1971, a Plexi-walled labyrinth with a toilet at its center. Of course, the works that still resonate most are the classics—the film of Ono’s still haunting 1965 Cut Piece and an outdoor remounting of the 1969 War Is Over! billboard, a piece that seems as fresh, pertinent, direct, and hopeful as it did back in the day.