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EXHIBITIONS

Yoko Ono and Claire Tabouret “One day I broke a mirror” at French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici

Académie de France à Rome – Villa Medici is opening its doors to Yoko Ono and Claire Tabouret with One day I broke a mirror. This is the second exhibition in the Une series initiated by Villa Medici director Muriel Mayette-Holtz and curated by Chiara Parisi.

Featuring artist-icon Yoko Ono and Claire Tabouret (b. 1981), that astonishing revelation of the latest generation, One day I broke a mirror is going to be a must on this year’s rich international art calendar.

From Cardinal Ferdinand’s galleries to the Loggia, and from the splendid gardens to the Balthus Studio, the works of these artists interact in a musical counterpoint that will transform the Villa Medici into a unique project for two solo voices.

One day I broke a mirror is the title chosen by Yoko Ono for an exhibition mainly exploring the output of an eclectic, multidisciplinary artist of the 1960s and 1970s who was very active on the New York underground scene, notably in association with the Fluxus movement and the aftermath of the experiments of John Cage.

Involving instructions, “chance” and sensory experiences, her works require the active participation of the public in order to achieve completeness and totality.

A critique of war in all its forms and harmony between the peoples of the world: these are the enduring themes of Yoko Ono’s installations and performances, together with a sublimely poetic political commitment, intolerance of the conventional, and loyalty to the pacifist protest cause.

All these elements, as well as many others, echo through Claire Tabouret’s big canvases, with their conditioned, armored, constrained bodies. Tabouret has earned critical acclaim for her vivid, mysteriously timeless colors, her determined-looking women warriors, her hordes of disguised children brandishing light sabers in a mingling of Paolo Uccello and the imaginary realm of Star Wars. After taking part in the group show Shit and Die curated by Maurizio Cattelan and L’illusione della luce at the Palazzo Grassi in 2014, she is back in Italy with forty new works from her studio in Los Angeles, where she is now based.

If the exhibition One day I broke a mirror starts with Sky TV (1966) – thirty screens that offer a live broadcast of sky images filmed by a camera placed outside of Villa Medici – the launchpad for this encounter between the two artists is Yoko Ono’s Painting to be Stepped On (1961), with its notion of footprints as a means of inhabiting the body conjured up by the canvas. Claire Tabouret’s Sitting (2016), which speaks to us of how one takes one’s place in a group—in this instance one composed of women in a firm, determined seated position—is thus a response to the Yoko Ono work. The women’s pose gives an impression of serenity and tranquility, but at the same time of the force of a group no one can disperse: these seated women are here to stay, united by an energy only powerful solidarity can generate.

The Instructions to reverse the perception of space, to overthrow the dimensions and staticity of this room are given by Blue Room Event (1966), are fifteen sentences written on the walls and the ceiling, whilst the installation Skyladders (1992) occupies the entrance of the Grandes Galeries with a group of wooden ladders, each one unique, that invite the spectator not to look at reality from only one perspective; the video Freedom (1970), shoot in slow motion, shows Yoko Ono while she takes off her bra, like an invitation to free yourself from social constraints.

The strong women, that together are vulnerable, portrayed by Claire Tabouret in one of the new productions for the exhibition at Villa Medici, reverberate with Yoko Ono’s first artworks; they are adventuresses that defy the visitor to undertake a journey through continents and time.

There is a kind of shock wave running through the exhibition, a movement that develops into protest, a kind of pacific but unyielding insurrection on the part of individuals and groups confronting each other, standing up to each other, each with a gesture that becomes symbolic of its own everyday resistance. It is a constructive confrontation and dialog between two artists of different generations and different creative process but united by a sharp reflection on the role of the artist, on the condition between being in the world and withdrawing from it; between being a warrior, an adventuress and a conqueror, and the desire to stay apart, to observe reality with discretion. The game takes a fundamental role because it enables both not to take themselves too seriously and to free themselves from any kind of social and academic constraint. Thus, the game shows the strength of solidarity, and becomes a popular instrument that federates people.

On the stairs of the Galeries, the words that amass in Word painting (2007) by Yoko Ono reflect into the warriors with their imperfect makeup that march in the art work Make up (2017), introducing the issue of the relationship between the individual and the group, central in the work of both artists.

Claire Tabouret presents eight subjects in thirty Monotypes (2017), artworks realized thanks to a peculiar printing technique, that stumps the colors and the characters’ features in a surprising game of linguistic and visual associations.

In the artwork, The Team (2016), seven women are imprisoned in the same sheet, like in a single body from which emerge different individualities; they reflect in the Wrapped Chair (1996) by Yoko Ono, a chair wrapped in gauze. This art piece, reactivated thanks to the collaboration between Yoko Ono and Claire Tabouret, projects us in the performative dimension that made famous the artist-icon, reminding of her performance Sky piece for Jesus Christ (1965) – a group of performers wrap an ensemble of musicians in gauze until they are immobilized -, that will be exceptionally offered again by the JuniOrchestra dell’Accademia di Santa Cecilia, the day of the opening of the exhibition at Villa Medici.

Water is a strongly symbolic element in Yoko Ono’s woks, as it is to the city of Rome; emblem of equality as essential resource of subsistence. At Villa Medici, the artist presents Water Event that was shown for the first time in 1971 with the contribution of many of her artist friends, that were invited to bring a container to realize a water sculpture. 20 artists like Andy Warhol, John Cage, Jack Nicholson, Bob Dylan participated… For Villa Medici, other artist friends will answer to the new invitation. Water means memory to Claire Tabouret. The watery colors that the artist use create a nocturnal and evanescent atmosphere, where anything can happen.

At the entrance of the Loggia, like the door of the building of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Nutopian embassy (1973), a copper plaque that reminds the name of the imaginary country created by both artists.

The desires, the hope, the connections between people are the driving force behind the two Yoko Ono art works installed in the Balthus studio. The visitor that want to leave a trace of their dreams on the Wish trees (1966) become part of a collective momentum; in Morning beam (1997), a hundred of threads evoke the rays of the sun in the morning, going across the Balthus studio, from the window to the floor.

The image of the mirror in the title chosen by Yoko Ono provides an opportunity for both comparison and confrontation: to break the mirror is also to go through and beyond it. A metaphor, you might say, for the Villa Medici, which almost seems bent on protecting the artists from the noise of the street; but the fury of life and art bursts in, shattering the Renaissance idyll.

With Billboard (2017), direct and efficient words appear on the walls at end of Villa Medici, on the Muro Torto and the Pincio. Undercover and Cover are conceived by Yoko Ono for One day I broke a mirror, key words to interact with the reality and take a break from the contemporary assault of images.

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at French Academy in Rome – Villa Medici
until 2 July 2017

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