Biography of John Giorno
Poet-turned-artist John Giorno has since the 1960s concentrated on lifting his poems off the page, delivering them through rhythmic performances, paintings, prints, and installations. Forging his art in New York during this buzzing era, John Giorno has been associated with important figures from this period, including Andy Warhol and a number of the Beat writers, who would all have an influence on his work.
Shortly after graduating from Columbia University in 1958, John Giorno would meet Andy Warhol and the two would become lovers. Inspired by the iconic Pop artist, as well as by subsequent relationships with artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, John Giorno began applying Pop Art techniques of appropriation of found imagery to his poetry. He developed what he coined “verbal collages”; appropriated text drawn from advertising and signage. During this period, John Giorno would also collaborate with Robert Moog—the famed creator of the synthesiser—to create psychedelic poetry installations which became popular in New York’s artistic circles.
In 1965, John Giorno created Giorno Poetry Systems, a non-profit production company which aimed to bring poetry to new audiences using innovative technologies. He organized the lauded Dial A Poem event at the Architectural League of New York, which made works by contemporary poets available over the telephone. Some of the poets and artists involved in this collaboration included Patti Smith, Robert Mapelthorpe and Robert Rauschenberg. This project would end up being shown at the MoMA in 1970 and eventually was compiled into a series of LP records.
Though part of his earlier practice as well, John Giorno today focusses essentially on the sheer materiality of the written word to confront his audiences. His more recent works include works on canvas, as well as graphic works on paper, with brightly coloured surfaces which elevate the artist’s recent writings. Sometimes highly provocative in his choice of words, the frankness of Giorno’s communication is highly engaging in today’s endlessly evolving political and social landscape.
John Giorno continues to work today and is represented by some of the worlds most prestigious galleries. His work is also part of the collections of the MoMA, New York, the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, both in Paris and the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, among others.