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Yoko Ono Art Exhibit Give Peace A Chance: The Art of John Lennon Exhibition

By Todd McFliker  |  Photos by Chris Schmitt

Keshet Gallery, Boca Raton / Artwork courtesy of Yoko Ono ©️ Yoko Ono

Imagine art collectors and Beatles fans alike taking the opportunity to purchase timeless works at “Give Peace a Chance: The Art of John Lennon” at Keshet Gallery in Boca Raton from March 15 to 24. The South Florida premiere of the graphic works included sketches, serigraphs, limited edition prints, and lithographs of the man’s handwritten lyrics. Celebrating love, the selection captured John’s emotional, political, and innovative energy.

“This is an exhibition that has been to about forty cities throughout the United States and around the globe,” explained Allison Zucker-Perelman, Celebrity Publicist in the genre of fine art and specifically the rock and roll space. “There will be many people coming that have been entrenched in the music business for many years that now live in South Florida.”

Besides his musical endeavors, John showed a profound interest in visual art as he dabbled in drawing. This passion led him to create three books, In His Own Write, A Spaniard in The Works, and Skywriting by Word of Mouth. In addition to these literary works, Lennon explored his artistic talents through pen and ink sketches, sharing his flair and unique perspective.

In 1969, Lennon started showcasing an assortment of drawings called Bag One. A number of them on display were part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection in New York. Justin Hochberg, Owner of Keshet Gallery, is quite passionate about bringing the best contemporary art to South Florida. “It’s surreal. It’s whimsical. It’s lighthearted,” he explained. “The more you look at some of these pieces, you can really get a reflection of John himself.”

Throughout his lifetime, John produced hundreds of drawings that he deemed meaningful. In 1986, Yoko started releasing limited editions of some of the most significant ones, utilizing fine art printing methods to highlight John as one of the most influential artists of his era.

Every item on display told the colorful story of John and Yoko’s lives together. There was even a replica of the room from the couple’s famous 2-week bed-in for world peace at the Amsterdam Hilton in 1969. On the mattress sat a pair of John’s glasses and a guitar under signs reading “Hair Peace” and “Bed Peace.”

Yoko Ono Art ExhibitFolks got to feast their eyes on several illustrations that John did with his second son. Doodling with a lighter tone, Real Love: The Drawings for Sean hit stores in 1999. Unlike his half-brother Julian, Sean spent years growing up with his indulgent father in their Dakota apartment in New York. In fact, the former art student put his musical career on hold to focus on fatherhood. John and his son spent time playing together by etching animals and writing captions from Sean’s immediate reactions. All the sketches were done in black and white originally, and Yoko and Sean added the coloration after he passed. Years later, Yoko put together the touching work and wrote an introduction to the 48-page book.

While the medium is never identified as pen, ink, chalk or crayon, Real Love entails John’s simple and playful line sketches. There are dozens of different creatures playing together, along with humorous descriptions that give it personality. Viewers see a cartoon cat catnapping, a frog reflecting over a puddle and a sleepy elephant counting sheep, along with other Sesame Street-like cartoons. In the foreword, Yoko explains, “That’s how Sean learned the fun of drawing, the fun of doing things together with his dad, and the fun of life.”

I was in awe to see serigraphs reproduced from Lennon’s original hand-written lyric sheets of timeless anthems, including “Instant Karma,” “Give Me Some Truth,” “Working Class Hero” and “Give Peace A Chance.” The lyrics are quite interesting because these are the only pieces that are not signed by Yoko. According to Anabel Cohen Hochberg, Owner of Keshet Gallery, everything else that was on display is hand signed by Yoko, along with John’s personal stamp, a chop mark in red ink that translates to “Like a cloud, beautiful sound.”

“They are spontaneous, and I hardly ever alter anything because I am selfish about what I write or big-headed about it,” John told BBC Radio on July 3, 1965. “Once I’ve written it, I like it. And the publisher sometimes says, ‘Should we leave this out’ or ‘change that?’ I fight like mad because once I’ve done it, I like to keep it. But I always write it straight off. I might add things when I go over it before it’s published, but I seldom take anything out.”

Visitors shopped a handful of historic representations, including a memorable sketch called “I Am Your Biggest Fan.” The art is John’s perception of seeing a fan outside of his home. A woman with a Saks Fifth Avenue bag portrays her love for him, while her dog is actually making a stinky mess on the ground. It tells the story of how people are so enthralled when talking to John, nothing else around them matters.

Self Portrait is one of the most recognizable paintings from the collection. It’s something that’s so simple, you immediately know where it comes from. When the publicity was at its highest and things got really intense, John would look at this particular work and it would ground him in a sense. John’s Self Portrait, sized 20” x 20”, was available for $2,495. The iconic drawing is now synonymous with the smart Beatle’s message of love and peace.

John may have lived an antiwar life of peace, but he was brutally murdered by Mark David Chapman on December 8th, 1980, outside his residence in New York. John died at Roosevelt hospital later that afternoon at the age of 40. Regardless, John’s message of love shines on, like the moon and the stars and the sun.

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