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John Giorno - Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York - Exhibitions - John Giorno Foundation


Sperone Westwater is pleased to present the first posthumous exhibition of John Giorno (1936-2019), opening on 25 March 2021 and extending through 28 May 2021. This solo marks the late artist’s second show with the gallery, following “John Giorno: DO THE UNDONE” in the Fall of 2019. The opening will take place from 12 to 7 PM on 25 March.

Giorno’s black-and-white paintings, dating from 2011-2018 and measuring 48x48 inches, are installed as a grid in the main gallery. Executed in the trademark font Mark Michaelson developed for the artist in 1984, these twelve screen-printed works incorporate phrases from Giorno’s distinctive poetry, such as IT DOESN’T GET BETTER, THANX 4 NOTHING and GOD IS MAN MADE.

In the East gallery, a collaborative audio-visual new media installation created by John Giorno with his husband, the artist Ugo Rondinone, beckons afar, seen but not heard in the distance from the gallery’s Bowery entrance. Inside the intimate skylight room, a multimedia work entitled John Giorno Performing I Don’t Need it, I don’t want it, and You Cheated Me Out of It, 1981 & Eating the Sky, 1978 reveals itself in the round on double-sided flatscreen monitors. The work unifies the visual with a corresponding audio track of the artist’s performative reading, coinciding and timed with the visual changes in words on the screen. Transforming from positive to negative and back again in the two-sided frame, the installation becomes visual, sensual and auditory in one complete experience.

Eating the Sky, 1978, is a landmark work that references American politics in a period in which the so-called “culture wars” were just beginning. It was also created in the year in which Giorno convened a gathering of the downtown New York art world to celebrate in readings, performances, and song, the contributions of William S. Burroughs. Dubbed “The Nova Convention,” this multi-day festival featured performances by Burroughs, Brian Gysin, Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson and many other luminaries of the avant-garde.

The second floor of the gallery will showcase the Giorno’s rare individual works which were not a part of a specific series, but function on their own. These 48 x 48 inch canvases incorporate a hybrid of visual strategies both in the black and white and with colored lettering. Each features a classic phrase from one of his key poems, such as SIT IN MY HEART AND SMILE and YOU GOT TO BURN TO SHINE.

John Giorno (1936-2019) is recognized as one of the most innovative poets and artists of the 20th Century. His kaleidoscopic work fused and furthered poetry, visual art and activism, pushing text off the printed page and into the social realm. Giorno’s The New York Times obituary concluded: “Mr. Giorno’s lasting contribution to art came through his restless experiments in the circulation and political potential of poetry, which he felt had been unjustly overshadowed by other genres of expression.” Giorno’s interdisciplinary roles as a political activist, Tibetan Buddhist and performance artist culminated in a burst of creativity in the second half of his artistic career. From 1995-2019, the artist produced an impressive body of visual art in the medium of painting, sculpture and works on paper, critically acclaimed and exhibited by leading galleries and museums worldwide. Giorno’s work is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, SF MoMA, Columbus Museum of Art, and other institutions internationally, as well as in private collections around the world.

Giorno’s autobiography, Great Demon Kings: A Memoir of Poetry, Sex, Death and Enlightenment, 25 years in the making, was published in August 2020 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. A paperback version will be published in August 2021.

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