It’s Yoko’s fault. After seeing her give a lecture at the Guggenheim last winter, I went to eat sushi on the Upper West Side. On stage, Yoko Ono danced with a chair. She mumbled and played a video. She broke a huge blue-and-white vase and gave a shard to everyone in the audience. Two performers in black bags rolled around on the floor like black holes or couch potatoes. Yoko turned a flashlight on and off.
This last behavior made her visibly happy. She smiled again and again.
On, off. On, off. On. Yes, certainly. Yes.
“Yes” is Yoko’s word. It’s the name of her retrospective that toured the world. It’s the name for her life’s work and it is also a singular piece, written on posters, stamped on the wall, spoken.
“Yes” is also a word we use everyday. And so we perform a Yoko Ono piece every time we say “yes.” We live art though words. Crazy, and cool.
She is a powerful woman, Ms. Ono. The way she transformed language into art back into our everyday life? She did it at no cost. No harm, no foul. Just poetry and affirmation.
While eating sushi I realized something. Art that doesn’t make me smile, even just a little bit on the inside, isn’t working. If art isn’t crazy and magical, then what is the point? If it isn't generous and thoughtful and positive, then why?
It all comes back to being good. Everything should be as simple and nice as Yoko's "Yes". She survived a lot. Japan during World War II, John Lennon’s murder, and yet she’s painfully nice. I interviewed her years ago about her music. I approached the meeting with fear and insecurity. She gave me a book, sent me a thank you note. She couldn’t have been nicer.
I know, I know. That word... "nice". It sounds so lame. So indistinct. Well, I disagree.
So that night over spicy tuna rolls and Sapporo with Reed Seifer (in the show), I decided to curate an exhibition that would capture a similar feeling of generosity and selflessness. I wanted a show that features art that makes people feel better. No satire or irony or jokey puns allowed. Only pure pleasure and goodness. Uplift. Like therapy without the co-pay.
The artists in this show are very special. They fill their drawings and paintings and sculpture with kindness and a sense of giving. I am sure they approach their lives the same way. I know that spending time with their work has filled me with pleasure. It has made me smile. It has changed my life.