Courtesy Earl J McGehee

Courtesy Earl J McGehee

Yoko Ono art exhibit at GMOA incorporates music

by Chelsey Abercrombie, The Red & Black

On Feb. 18, Yoko Ono will celebrate her eightieth birthday.

One day later, the freshly-minted octogenarian will release her latest single, a dance mix co-written by Ono and Dave Audé.
The single’s release date coincides with the very day the Georgia Museum of Art and the Performing Arts Center will host another event in their “Make It An Evening” series, where patrons can enjoy a guided tour of “Water Music,” an experimental, multifaceted exhibition that includes the art of Ono herself.

The “Water Music” exhibit represents an artistic journey as colorful and multifaceted as Ono’s eighty years.

“It really started with musical work,” said Lynn Boland, GMOA’s Pierre Daura Curator of European Art. “I was doing a recreation of John Cage’s 1952 performance that he did at Black Mountain College at Asheville. It was kind of the birth of performance art. I was just fascinated by this literal interpretation of Handel’s ‘Water Music,’” Boland said.

The exhibit features pieces that take a traditional stance on this theme, such as “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” (1830), a multicolor woodblock print by Katsushika Hokusai, juxtaposed against modern pieces such as Christian Marclay’s “Bottled Water” (1990), a glass bottle filled with un-spooled audiotape recordings of dripping water.

Music itself is also an important component of the exhibit.

“Water Music” features a listening station where patrons can hear everything from George Frideric Handel’s inspirational work to “We’re All Water,” a song from the 1972 album “Sometime in New York City” that was recorded by Ono and her late husband, John Lennon.
Ono’s “We’re All Water” is featured in more than just the musical accompaniment.

“It started with the poem that was then turned into the song for the ‘Sometime In New York City’ release, and then it was adapted to these kinds of multiples,” Boland said.

Originally from a private collection, Ono’s piece — the lyrics of her poem-turned-song printed on carefully arranged cardstock and arranged around a small box that bears the work’s name — is featured in one of the exhibit’s two glass cases.

The lyrics of “We’re All Water,” printed both in English and Japanese, reflect Ono’s humanitarian stance and echo her anti-war activism.
“We’re all water from different rivers/ That’s why it’s so easy to meet/ We’re all water in this vast, vast ocean/ Someday we’ll evaporate together,” the poem reads.

Boland said the theme of water is one that is commonly present in the exhibit.

“Yoko Ono I think is of course also concerned with the unifying aspect of water, the lyrics are pretty clear,” Boland said.
Ono’s cohesion-touting ballad fits within the “Water Music” exhibit in that it subtly yet irrefutably emphasizes the indelible connection between music and art.

6 – 8 pm
Enjoy coffee, dessert and free gallery tours at the museum before The English Concert’s performance in Hodgson Hall. Hailed as one of the finest chamber orchestras in the world, the London-based ensemble will perform a program that includes Handel’s Water Music. Pierre Daura Curator of European Art Lynn Boland will lead a tour of “Water Music,” an exhibition related to Handel’s masterpiece. Jittery Joe’s coffee and Cecilia Villaveces’ cakes $5 per person. Purchase tickets for the concert at


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