John Giorno (1936-2019) was an American poet and visual artist. From his studio on the Bowery, where he lived and worked for over fifty years, Giorno’s practice grew beyond poetry to encompass film, painting, sound installation and much more. He began staging multimedia events alongside Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable in the 1960s, when he also worked with Robert Rauschenberg’s Experiments in Art and Technology (E.A.T) (1966) and with Bob Moog (1967-68). An early pioneer of recorded spoken word projects, he founded the nonprofit Giorno Poetry Systems in 1965, which produced albums with hundreds of artists and poets. Giorno is best known for his interactive telephone work “Dial-A-Poem,” first presented in 1968, which invited people to call into a dedicated line to hear poems from live recordings by Laurie Anderson, John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, and numerous others. Included in Kynaston McShine’s watershed exhibition “Information” at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970, “Dial-A-Poem” has gone on to several subsequent influential iterations in both analog and digital worlds. Giorno’s earliest silkscreened works, first exhibited around this time, reconcile Buddhist spiritual texts with a Pop sensibility. His well-known text paintings of recent decades, executed in the trademark font Mark Michaelson developed for him in 1984, feature curt and contradictory messages excerpted from his poetry.
Giorno’s legendary influence as an artist, poet and performer was recently celebrated in the expansive retrospective project “Ugo Rondinone, I ♥ John Giorno,” presented at the Palais de Tokyo in 2015 and at 13 venues across New York in 2017. Other recent exhibitions include “You Got to Burn to Shine,” Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome (2019); “Call and Response: Recent Acquisitions from The Bass Collection,” The Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach (2017); “Artists and Poets,” Secession, Vienna (2015); and “Ecstatic Alphabets / Heaps of Language,” The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012). Giorno is represented in major collections including The Museum of Modern Art; Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean (MUDAM), Luxembourg; Pérez Art Museum Miami; and Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane.