In any given decade of his life in New York, John Giorno could be found right in the middle of whatever the new scene might be, hanging out with the era’s defining figures and embodying the moment: in the fifties, meeting Jack Kerouac at Columbia’s West End; in the sixties, making a movie with Andy Warhol; in the seventies, studying Buddhism in India; in the eighties, playing in a band at CBGB. He has always been a poet who operates primarily in the art world. His practice is multimodal and collaborative: he’s experimented with sound recording, painting, video, and has been muse and lover to a number of artists, including Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. This last detail, which is so often salaciously foregrounded in the literature and mythos surrounding Giorno, would appear to put him in a passive or sidelined role, but his work gleefully subverts this, showing just how potent and active these roles can be. It reveals, too, the advantages of having passed the time with great artists and what he has learned from being the subject of their gaze.
“I ♥ John Giorno,” Ugo Rondinone’s exhibition-as-artwork love letter to his husband and collaborator, which appeared at the Palais de Tokyo in 2015, has come home to New York this summer. This iteration requires a peripatetic tour of thirteen independent and nonprofit venues throughout the city. Rondinone, Giorno’s partner of eighteen years, explores nine distinct chapters in Giorno’s diverse body of work and interweaves portraits of and responses to the poet by filmmakers, painters, videographers, and musicians of many generations. I spent five days taking in the show and feel as if I’ve only begun to traverse Giorno’s staggering creative output, as intricate as it is wide-ranging. Read More