A John Giorno Retrospective, Done 13 Ways

In the hands of anyone else, John Giorno’s retrospective could have been a standard showcase of his immense collection of poems and artwork. Fortunately, that is not the case. With his long-time partner Ugo Rondinone at the helm of the project, the project quickly became a testament to the impact Giorno made on art, the city, and everyone around him.

Ugo Rondinone and John Giorno

The exhibition, Ugo Rondinone: I ♥ John Giorno, evokes Giorno’s contribution to the arts, represents a symbolic play on the famous I  NY logo, and serves as a declaration by Rondinone himself. Beginning June 21st, the shows spread across 13 free and public locations in the city; it’s one of the most singular expressions of an artist who has led movements for decades, and one of the most exciting new shows to hit New York.

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Giorno was born in Brooklyn in 1936, inspired by the continuously evolving New York culture scene. After studying at Columbia University, he became associated with the generation of famed Beat poets. His involvement in avant-garde leanings put him in the company of visionary artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol from a young age, and his poetic works began to transform and encompass different mediums. Experimental forms of poetry including collages, paintings, sounds, and performance all became part of his repertoire; whether it was pop art, conceptualism, or punk, Giorno had a way of melding together genres and formats to create something truly unique.

I ♥ John Giorno compiles Giorno’s work on a large scale for the first time in New York. Building on the original 2015-2016 exhibit at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Rondinone utilizes New York to create a robust display that also pays homage to the city where Giorno helped build a community. Rondinone divided I ♥ John Giorno into 18 parts, each reflecting a different chapter in his life, a different facet of his personality, or a different relationship.

PREFERCRYINGINALIMOTOLAUGHINGONABUS,2017 Acrylic on canvas 48x48in 121.9 x 121.9 cm

Relationships are significant to the exhibit; as a noted collaborator, Giorno frequently worked with or served as a muse for other artists. For Andy Warhol, that simply meant sleeping for five hours while being filmed, naturally titled Sleep (screening at the Swiss Institute). Renowned painter Elizabeth Peyton is among a selection of artists who is showing portraits of Giorno (on view at White Columns). Rirkrit Tiravanija created one of the more immersive exhibits, with a video of himself reciting Giorno’s poetry in a replica of his studio (playing at The Kitchen). But perhaps the most impressive installation is Dial-A-Poem, an interactive piece built around “found poetry” that originally debuted in 1969. Viewers can call phones that are connected to answering machines, which play poems from the likes of Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs (on view at Red Bull Arts New York).

Rounding out the exhibit will be ongoing performances, poetry readings, and discussions to complete the indulgence in his artwork. Possessing both depth and diversity, I ♥ John Giorno is a unique and profound exhibit, whether you see it as a celebration of a great artistic talent, or a celebration of a man through the eyes of his partner.

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‘Ugo Rondinone: I ♥ John Giorno’ is open now at: Artists Space, High Line Art, Howl! Happening, Hunter College Art Galleries, The Kitchen, New Museum, Red Bull Arts New York, Rubin Museum of Art, Sky Art, Swiss Institute, White Columns, and 80WSE Gallery