Traipsing Around Town with Ugo Rondinone’s ‘I ♥ John Giorno’

Posted on: June 23rd, 2017 at 5:11 am by

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Imagine having been part of the Beat Generation and Pop Art era. You could go to a phone booth (remember those?) and dial a poem; You could be filmed by Andy Warhol for hours – while sleeping; You might even be neighbors on the Bowery with William Burroughs.

Or be a fly on the wall, able to see it all?

Well you can. Sort of.

The scene at White Columns. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

Last night kicked off the opening events for the multi-part exhibition Ugo Rondinone: I ♥ John Giorno. For this celebration of underground artist, poet and AIDS activist Giorno’s 80th birthday, the exhibit and festival was conceived by Giorno’s husband, the artist Ugo Rondinone.

After opening at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris in 2015, I ♥ John Giorno was reconceived for New York. The multi-venue “happening” features paintings, films, sound installations, drawings, archival presentations and a video environment, with work by Giorno and by others who were inspired by him.

Paintings of Giorno by Judith Eisler. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

Opening in 13 different locations across New York City last night, each “chapter” of the exhibit takes the form of an immersive installation, dedicated to a body of work or a collaboration of Giorno’s.

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Having always broken new ground, Giorno has spoken about how, in the 60s, he was trying to figure out how to bring poetry into the present time period:

These artists and painters [of the 60s] were the real influence on me, as a poet. Whether it was a performance or a painting, they did what arose in their minds, and made it happen. It occurred to me that poetry was seventy-five years behind painting and sculpture and dance and music. I said to myself, if these artists can do it, why can’t I do it for poetry?

Photo: Lori Greenberg

Giorno still lives on the Bowery, where he has been since 1962. He now occupies 3 lofts with Rondinone. (A bit of trivia: Rondinone created the rainbow-hued “Hell, Yes!” artwork, which hung on the front of the New Museum for years. Giorno and Rondinone would wake up and see the artwork out their window every morning. Jealous much?)

Screening of “Sleeptalking” at Howl Happening. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

Last night’s event took us all over town including, among the downtown locations, the Howl Happening and White Columns galleries, and NYU’s 80wse windows, where we ran into some fabulous roller-skaters wearing “I John Giorno” t-shirts and handing out Giorno’s poems to passers-by. We dropped in on the Pierre Huyge 1998 video of Giorno, “Sleeptalking,” based on Warhol’s 1963 “Sleep” (also on view).

Roller Skaters with killer style, handing out poems. Photo: Lori Greenberg.

By the way, the Dial-A-Poem has been revived for the celebration (the new number is: 641-793-8122). We gave it a try, and got a piece by Philip Glass. Pretty cool.

Readings, performances, block parties, talks and other events will be going on from now through July 21st. Tonight, at 7pm, there will be readings at Artists Space. You can find a schedule of events here.

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