The artwork of John Lennon will be on display this week at an art gallery at the Jersey Shore. Ocean Galleries in Stone Harbor will feature drawings and cartoons drawn by the former Beatle.
Lennon drew cartoons most of his life, but could not get a foothold in the art world. As a young man he was thrown out of art school for being disruptive. In 1970, he had a show at a London art gallery which was shut down by Scotland Yard because it featured erotic drawings. Other galleries would invite him to play guitar but not show his work.
His cartoons are quick, whimsical line sketches, sometimes accompanied by text, taking just a few minutes to draw.
“He was so quick, just the time to let the pencil go through it,” said Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono. “Some people think it’s not serious. I think whatever you draw, whether it takes two years or two minutes — that’s irrelevant. That’s not what the quality is decided by.”
Inspired by a trip to Japan, some of Lennon’s drawings take the form of traditional Japanese prints, they’re vertically oriented. Most of his drawings feature a stamp imprint near the bottom, with Lennon’s name in Japanese characters.
Shortly after Lennon’s death in 1980, Yoko Ono created a nonprofit to coordinate traveling exhibitions of his art, the proceeds of which benefit local charities — in this case, the Community FoodBank of New Jersey.
Lennon drew only with black ink on white paper. Ono filled in many of the pieces with watercolor. She said she did it to make the drawings more popular.
“He did not just draw something to hide in the basement,” said Ono. “Most artists, when they create, they want to communicate something to people, not just something you throw in the trash can.”
As it happens, Ono has her own retrospective on view right now at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, which is showing her work from the 1960s when she was an upstart in the fringe avant-garde movement called Fluxus.
Although promoting the work of her late husband almost 50 years later, Ono says she is less excited about seeing her own work from long ago.
“That’s something I would not have done,” said Ono of the MOMA show. “I wouldn’t have done it — bring it up 48 years later.”
Ono says she is working on new material she will be releasing soon, but would not disclose if it will me musical, a visual work or in another medium.