Critics’ Picks

View of “I ♥ John Giorno,” 2015.

View of “I ♥ John Giorno,” 2015.


“I ♥ John Giorno”

Palais de Tokyo
13, Avenue du Président Wilson
October 21, 2015–January 10, 2016

“I ♥ John Giorno,” a group exhibition conceived by Giorno’s longtime boyfriend Ugo Rondinone, is a massive love letter to the celebrated poet of the New York underground, with contributions from art-world luminaries such as Billy Sullivan, Verne Dawson, Elizabeth Peyton, Michael Stipe, and Pierre Huyghe, among others. Florence Ostende, the curator of the show, has divided it into eight chapters. Her challenge: to transform Giorno’s vast archive of documents, some going back as far as 1936, into a legible and celebratory spectacle.

The exhibition begins with Scott King’s titular wall painting and continues with a rhythmic black-and-white video by Rondinone projected onto four screens that portrays Giorno, shoeless and wearing a tuxedo, reciting “Thanks 4 Nothing” (also the title of the video), a liberating poem he wrote for his seventieth birthday. Rondinone also manages to lay bare Giorno’s life in an impressive wall mosaic, The Archive of John Giorno (1936–2015), 2015, composed of fifteen thousand sheets of colorful paper, arranged in a room where his life is retraced in binders of photos. This biographic kaleidoscope is interrupted by Sleep, Andy Warhol’s 1963 video portrait of the artist in slumber.

Giorno’s relationship with Warhol led him to renegotiate his thinking regarding the boundaries of sound and language, specifically with Dial-a-Poem, 1968–2012, originally a pre-Internet poetry hotline that democratically offered all manner of recorded texts, read by avant-garde and countercultural personalities such as John Cage and William Burroughs, to any interested party. Rondinone reactivates the alloverness of this project in a room covered in Giorno’s poem paintings, where viewers can use six telephones to dial up and listen to the poet’s funny, kinky, and subversive compositions.

Translation from Italian by Marguerite Shore.