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.

Recent Stories

Entrance to Broadway Lafayette Goes Under the Knife (Again)

One of four main entrances to the Broadway-Lafayette subway station just (partially) closed for an extended period. The shutter, albeit temporary, is the second time for this particular stairwell in the two years since development began at the southwest corner of Lafayette and East Houston. A large sign on the sub-level landing announces the closure […]

An Elon Musk Space on Rivington Street?

Until 106 Rivington Street fulfills its destiny as the next Hell Square nightspot, this. A tunnel construction company? A tipster was out front last night and snapped a few photos before security stepped in. Below a “boring” neon sign, the sparse space is occupied by something called The Boring New York Company. There is a […]

Man Repeatedly Slashed on Rivington Street Yesterday Morning

When someone asks you if you’re a gang member, just keep walking… Early yesterday morning, at around 5am, a man was slashed across the torso near the corner of Rivington and Ridge Streets. Police said that two assailants, male and female, approached another guy and asked if he was a gang member. When the victim […]

My Time Recording the Buzzcocks’ Pete Shelley During his Lower East Side Years

Beloved Buzzcocks frontman Pete Shelley passed away of a suspected heart attack last week (December 6). Ken Lockie, singer-songwriter and sometime collaborator with John (Rotten) Lydon of Public Image Ltd., fondly recalls his time behind the board with Shelley thirty years ago in Williamsburg and on the Lower East Side. Pete Shelley was a charming, likable, […]

Cristin Tierney Gallery Takes Space on the Bowery

The decade-running trend of Chelsea gallery refugees quartering on the Lower East Side continues with news of another. The Cristin Tierney gallery just signed a lease to take over 219 Bowery. It sits one store south of the Camper Lab concept shop, both of which formerly comprised the Chair Up restaurant supplier. Tierney, who had […]