Yoko Ono's Ex It at Faurschou
Yoko Ono's Ex It at Faurschou

Faurschou has a sense not only for the visual but also the olfactory—and not just because a high-end restaurant is opening next door. As part of last year’s exhibit, artist Shilpa Gupta stacked bars of soap with a bricklayer’s precision, treating visitors to a musky, alpine aroma that pervaded the 17,000-square foot space.

Now, a similarly pleasant but more floral scent greets museumgoers. Yoko Ono’s Ex It — part of the her solo exhibition, Golden Ladders, as seen at Faurschou Beijing in 2015 and originally conceived and seen in Valencia in 1997 — is an indoor arboretum and one of three works currently part of Embrace the World from Within, on display through September 17 at the gallery’s 148 Green Street location. In Ex It, evergreen and dogwood trees burst out of wooden coffins of various sizes. If grime rising from sewer grates clogs your pores and incessant street honking irks your ears, enjoy the cleansing sights and sounds of the al fresco al chiuso: fresh air indoors. Within Faurschou, (the recorded sound of) chirping birds further enliven dozens of trees in bloom. By placing her subjects inside, Ono invites us to consider them through an artistic and political lens.

Part of Yoko Ono’s “Ex It” exhibition; photo provided by Faurschou

Trees springing from the heads of coffins nod toward new perspectives on life, which is further explored in Ono’s other simple gesture: in her unadorned jars of water, lined up at one end of the exhibit, each is named for a different artist or inventor, dictator or comedian. There are jars for Bertolt Brecht, Anne Frank, and Osama bin Laden. “we’re all water in different containers / that’s why it’s so easy to meet / someday we’ll evaporate together,” reads nearby prose, stamped onto Faurschou’s pristine eggshell white walls.

Stare long enough at the identical, translucent jars and you may notice the liquids therein are different; is Donald Trump’s water slightly greener than Bill Gates’? The piece acts as reminder that human beings share 99.9% of the same genetic makeup. Maybe the liquid within is indeed unique jar to jar, or perhaps they all have water from the same source, and the perception of their varied hues is but a trick of the eye.

The cube and rock as part of Miles Greenberg’s The Embrace; photo by Sean Davidson

Miles Greenberg also bewitched the eye in his piece, The Embrace, in which live models become a statue. On Saturdays from 1 to 7 PM, two near-nude artists hold one another in a glass cube, sitting still as the rock beneath them. (On non-Saturdays, a recording projects the models’ performance art onto Faurschou’s east-facing wall.) The two become their own statue, a modern Baucis and Philemon wordlessly clutching one another in the face of whatever fear you’ve brought into the gallery that day. It is a mesmerizing feat.


The final exhibition features no organisms, which does make it feel more lifeless in comparison. The late Louise Joséphine Bourgeois’ Fée Couturière (Fairy Seamstress) nonetheless takes a corporal approach, showing, in one statue, Nature Study (1984), parts of the body that blend anatomy across the genders. C.O.Y.O.T.E. (1947), too, addresses male and female energies; the sharpness and metals of stainless steel are given a feminine touch in their baby pink paint. The piece also conjures domestic energy; Bourgeois had its pointed legs mirror those of her parents, whom she’d watch sitting from below as they cooked in her childhood kitchen.

Various pieces of Louise Joséphine Bourgeois’ Fée Couturière; photo provided by Faurschou

Color, in exploring gender, can be both symbolic and reductive; Bourgeois’ achievement is it shows, decades ago, her pioneering work toward reconceptualizing the norms many hold dangerously dear. In this way, her piece, and the others, have great immediacy.

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