Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s Four Thoughts: Lost in the Archive

Kevin Concannon

 

John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and unidentified man with works from FOUR THOUGHTS – Yoko Ono with John Lennon at London’s Arts Lab Gallery, May/June 1968. Unpublished photo by Jane Bown, courtesy The Observer

 

One of the great exhibitions of 2015 was Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971, at the Museum of Modern Art last summer. The exhibition chronicled Ono’s impressive artistic career through the 1960s, including her collaborations with John Lennon, begun in 1968. Yet the very first Ono-Lennon joint exhibition was conspicuously missing from the show. In this paper, I will share what I have been able to discover about this missing exhibition, its genesis, and the likely reasons that it remains little known and virtually unacknowledged by the artist.

 

Working from published gallery listings, reviews, and reports in the popular press; a televised interview with the artists by David Frost; unpublished photographs; and interviews with the curators of FOUR THOUGHTS – Yoko Ono with John Lennon at London’s Arts Lab Gallery, I will present a partial reconstruction of the project and offer an interpretation linking it with the events of May 1968.

 

The exhibition was likely the first public appearance of John and Yoko as a couple and coincided with the first recording sessions for what would become known as The White Album, specifically, John and Yoko’s work on the various versions of the song Revolution. I will also argue that the controversy surrounding this song in the radical press—and the exhibition itself—mark a turning point in the couple’s politics of peace.

 


 

 

Kevin ConcannonrgbKevin Concannon received his PhD in Art History from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2000. He is currently Professor of Art History and Director of the School of Visual Arts at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on art of the 1960s, and his paper for the CAUS Research Symposium is based on a forthcoming article in the Review of Japanese Culture and Society. His current curatorial projects include From Neighborhood to Nation: Representing Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967-2011 and Dali in America, to which he will contribute a section on “Dali in Virginia.”