stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
The palette of Yayoi and Yoko
space
Little has been made about the fascinating parallels between two Toronto art shows just blocks apart
space
By RUSSELL SMITH
Special to The Globe and Mail
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Saturday, April 14, 2018 – Page R6

TORONTO -- Toronto is having an elderly female-Japanese-artist moment, with two museum shows devoted to this demographic - artists from the same place (New York, actually, not Japan) and time (the performance-art explosion of the 1960s) with remarkably similar thematic preoccupations. Both shows are about the infinite. Both involve a degree of group participation. Both are astoundingly popular. Why this aesthetic, this very specific set of intellectual interests, now?

The two shows are Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors at the Art Gallery of Ontario and Yoko Ono's The Riverbed, at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.

The timing of the shows is a coincidence, but their popularity means something. Both shows are accessible and optimistic.

Both invite participation. There is a certain amount of socializing over art going on.

It is perhaps a hippie moment - a Love-In, a Be-In, a Happening.

Infinity Mirrors has been on for some months now (it continues until May 27) and most of the press about it has been on its unprecedented success. Getting tickets to see it is as tough as finding NHL playoff seats.

All advance tickets are sold out; queues for same-day tickets form an hour before the gallery opens. Once you do have a ticket, you are assigned a precise viewing time, and your ticket is scanned three separate times - as if in an airport with serious security concerns - before you are allowed 20 to 30 seconds inside each of the magical "pods," the most intriguing part of the show.

The pods are small mirrored rooms with illuminated objects inside them; they give you the impression of floating in an infinitely extending galaxy of these objects. They are immersive and hallucinatory environments and it is no surprise that such aesthetically enveloping art has stirred passionate response in a general public that has become rather weary of dry and cerebral installations.

There are other wonderful works by Kusama on display - paintings and collages of patterns of dots, many photos and a short film documenting trippy performances of the 1960s - and much explanatory text about her life and concerns. The whole thing combines art and history lessons about that crazy New York moment (the time of Happenings and Be-Ins) in a subtle and satisfying way (if you don't mind the sense that you are lining up for entry to an exclusive yet particularly dangerous nightclub).

Little has been made so far, though, about the fascinating parallel to the other show a few blocks away: Ono was born in 1933; Kusama in 1929. They were both born in Japan, yet active in New York at the same time. Both had connections to early conceptualism and hippie avant-gardism. Both organized protests against the Vietnam War.

The Riverbed (on until June 3) has an explicitly meditative aspect. It consists of three elements.

Stone Piece is a river of round stones on the floor, with an inducement to pick one up and hold it until you release your anger and sadness.

Line Piece is a room with string and nails in the walls; visitors are told to "Take me to the farthest place in our planet by extending the line." This has resulted in a web of string like a canopy at about head level.

Mend Piece is a room with tables and broken crockery that attendees may tie and tape together to make their own artworks that are then hung on the walls.

("It will mend the earth at the same time.") Pencils are free to anyone who wants to write messages or poems on the wall as well.

This has also been an unusual success for this quiet little museum. The Gardiner reports that attendance has been more than double what it was at this time last year. It is remarkable how much Ono's river of stones resembles Kusama's early pebble paintings, and echoes Kusama's obsession with polka dots.

Ono's work is not as deep as her older counterpart's.

The early days of conceptualism, even from its origin in Dadaism, had an aversion to obvious content: It had no message; it was about expanding definitions of and control of art. In many ways, it was against meaning, meaning being simple-minded and bourgeois. Ono's groundbreaking early work - such as Cut Piece, in which she sat still while gallery-goers cut her clothes off her body - was steadfastly cryptic.

But as her career progressed, Ono got heavier on the meanings - and what simple meanings.

These pieces have messages like inspirational slogans.

Let go of your anger; be one with the universe; peace and love. The Toronto public has responded with equally enthusiastic sentimentality, writing happy things on the wall like, "We are bound together by our common humanity." This feels not so much like an art exhibition as the result of an underfunded group therapy session, or worse, a corporate team-building exercise.

Inspirational messages - a cranky person might call them platitudes - undermine the cerebral otherness of the conceptual art moment that Ono helped create back in the day.

Meanwhile, Kusama's work - technically accomplished, meticulously beautiful and thoroughly abstract - has a more powerful impact and a more obscure message. It is about experience rather than lesson. When one does read about the artist's complicated and contradictory ideas - ideas that are not at all explicit on the surface of the work - one finds that she did share a lot of Ono's somewhat sentimental optimism about becoming one with nature. Kusama wrote at different points that she aimed for the annihilation of individual self against the backdrop of infinite universe, and the recurring polka dots represent something like universal sameness or repetition.

She also promoted nudity and sexual freedom as both anti-individualistic and anti-war, like many of Ono's contemporaries.

But Kusama also confessed that she was frightened of sex itself - and some of the soft phallic shapes that crowd her landscapes are more nightmarish than sexy. This kind of natural human self-contradiction is so much more intriguing than written instructions to "mend the earth." The weakness of the literal is put in relief by this juxtaposition of artists.

Still, the parallels are just as interesting as this contrast. There is a sense of joy in Kusama's bright colours and endless horizons, as there is in Ono's stress-relieving wrapping-china therapy and in her stream of nice stones. And there is a pleasure in the forced conversation among strangers in the queues at the AGO and in the communal silent meditation at the Gardiner. No one takes their clothes off and dances in the streets in Toronto, but still we like the idea of a Happening.

Associated Graphic

Much of the coverage of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrors, on now at the Art Gallery of Ontario, has been about its unprecedented success.

FRED LUM/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Yoko Ono's The Riverbed, at the Gardiner Museum, has an explicitly meditative aspect. The exhibit's Line Piece, left, is a room with string and nails in the walls; visitors are told to 'Take me to the farthest place in our planet by extending the line.' Mend Piece, below, is a room with tables and broken crockery that attendees may tie and tape together to make their own works. Both Ono and Yayoi Kusama were born in Japan, four years apart, and became active in New York in the sixties.

PHOTOS BY TARA FILLION


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Lorne_Rubenstein Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page