John Giorno (American, 1936-2019)
John Giorno is a poet and visual artist. Born in 1936 in New York City, Giorno attended Columbia University and worked as a stockbroker for a short time before meeting Andy Warhol in 1962. A romantic relationship ensued, and Giorno was featured in Warhol’s first film, Sleep (1963). The influence of pop art and Warhol’s Factory are evident in Giorno’s work, which developed out of verbal collages of appropriated texts drawn from advertising and signage.
Since 1962, John Giorno has been disseminating his streetwise, pioneering poetry to audiences worldwide. He lifts his poems off the page, delivering them through rhythmic performances; paintings, prints, and installations; and in LPs, mixed with music. Among his most iconic works is his “Dial-A-Poem” project (begun 1968), in which a telephone number leads to short readings by a host of writers, artists, and activists, among them Allen Ginsburg and John Cage. Giorno forged his art in 1960s New York, and was associated with numerous important figures from that period, including Andy Warhol, the Beat writers, and avant-garde performers—who all influenced his generous, democratic work. Describing his relationship with his audience, he states: “I’m giving out energy, and I’m holding up a mirror to their minds. It’s not me they’re looking at—it’s into their own minds. That’s what a great poem is.”
Inspired by Rauschenberg's Experiments in Art and Technology events of 1966, Giorno began making "Electronic Sensory Poetry Environments", working in collaboration with synthesizer creator Robert Moog and others to create psychedelic poetry installation/happenings at venues such as St. Mark's Church in New York. In 1965, Giorno founded a not-for-profit production company, Giorno Poetry Systems in order to connect poetry to new audiences, using innovative technologies. In 1967, Giorno organized the first Dial-A-Poem event at the Architectural League of New York, making short poems by various contemporary poets available over the telephone. The piece was repeated to considerable acclaim at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970, and resulted in a series of LP records compiling the recordings, which were issued by Giorno Poetry Systems. Some of the poets and artists who recorded or collaborated with Giorno Poetry Systems were Burroughs, John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Mapplethorpe.
Giorno and his husband the artist Ugo Rondindone collaborated on the 2015 show “Ugo Rondidone: I ♥ John Giorno,” which opened at the Palais de Tokyo and later traveled to the New Museum in 2017. The artist currently lives and works in New York, NY. Today, his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and the Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane, among others.