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Yes Chicago

By SIGALIT ZETOUNI
   Since the late 1950s Japanese-born (1933) New York artist Yoko Ono has lead the way in creating new art forms. Ono’s art has directly involved the viewers, who have become active participants and transferred the work of art into everyday life. Using plain words, the artist set up objects, events, and rituals. Ono’s instructions have become actions performed by the viewers. The word is the beginning of Ono’s work.
   In 1966 London’s Indica Gallery exhibited a “Ceiling Painting” by an artist named Yoko Ono. Upon a gallery visit, musician John Lennon climbed to the top of a tall white ladder and used a magnifying glass dangling from a thread to read a tiny, unimposing “yes” printed on a canvas suspended from the ceiling. In a 1971 interview Lennon recalled: “John Dunbar, who was married to Marianne Faithful, had an art gallery in London called Indica and I’d been going around to galleries a bit on my off days in between records…I got the word that this amazing woman was putting on a show next week…I went down to a preview of the show... I went in—she didn’t know who I was or anything—I was wandering around, there was a couple of artstype students that had been helping lying around there in the gallery, and I was looking at it and I was astounded. There was an apple on sale there for 200 quid, I thought it was fantastic—I got the humor in her work immediately. I didn’t have to sort of have much knowledge about avant-garde or underground art, but the humor got me straight away…But there was another piece which really decided me for-or-against the artist, a ladder which led to a painting which was hung on the ceiling. It looked like a blank canvas with a chain with a spyglass hanging on the end of it… I climbed the ladder, you look through the spyglass and in tiny little letters it says “yes”. So it was positive. I felt relieved. It’s a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn’t say “no” or “f___ you” or something, it said “yes.”(The Rolling Stone Interview: John Lennon, Part II By Jann S. Wenner. RS75: February 4, 1971)
   This summer “Art Loop 2011,” produced by the Chicago Loop Alliance (CLA) and United Way, is showing “GO DO GOOD.” The project was unveiled in May with a six-story mural by Midwest-based contemporary artist Kay Rosen (b. 1949), painted in bright yellow and black on the wall of the Stevens Building at State and Madison. Rosen’s “GO DO GOOD” pieces include an installation at the State and Lake CTA train station and a series of banners along State Street from Wacker to Congress. “GO DO GOOD” originates from language and letterforms, and Rosen aims to inspire viewers to connect art to action and perform 100,000 good deeds that help prepare Chicago kids to succeed in school. To measure these actions, a unique four-foot-tall sculptural installation located on State Street (between Washington and Madison) will serve as a visual representation of the number of good deeds performed throughout the campaign. CLA and United Way have also created a signature event and drive each month that will generate funds, supplies and/or awareness for different aspects of education. In addition, an interactive website, www.GoDoGoodChicago.com was created with ideas that inspire readers to “do good.”
   For Rosen GO DO GOOD began small. She first looked at the structure of three letters (G, D, O) and later examined the sites. Upon first view GO DO GOOD appears like an abstract pattern and the work unfolds in stages. The ultimate reading of the text creates meaning from eight letters, and the artist hopes that the final and most important stage becomes the viewer’s performance, where her message encourages good deeds and gestures, large and small, public and private, leading viewers to act out the words on a daily basis.

Published: August 20, 2011
Issue: Fall 2011 Issue