Yoko Ono’s early conceptual work from the 1960s often involves everyday objects and open-ended instructions or scores meant to be completed through the participation of viewers. In the late 1980s, Ono revisited these influential artworks by fabricating them in bronze. In doing so, she transformed the original pieces from lightweight and ephemeral works into heavy and permanent objects. At the time, Ono’s Bronze Age series signified the artist’s rejection of nostalgia for the 1960s and reflected the current era, which she described as the age of commodity and solidity. The use of bronze, a material with a long history in art, also testifies to her experimental practice and her engagement with different media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, performance, music, writing, and film.
The previous iterations of Painting to Hammer a Nail In consist of a white, wooden panel inviting viewers to hammer nails into it. One of Ono’s earliest ‘instruction paintings’, the transgressive work is finished when the surface is covered with nails. Channelling anger and frustration into art, the original version foregrounds the active role of the participant. This bronze cast negates the earlier work’s interactive nature, freezing a cumulative, evolving action into a fixed representation.