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Larry Poons

Barry Schwabsky looks back on the early days of Larry Poons’s career, when a studio visit by artist Ray Johnson ultimately led to Poons’s first one-man show, at the Green Gallery in 1963.

BEFORE THERE WAS THE ART WORLD, there was bohemia. And you immediately realize that’s what Larry Poons is talking about when he discusses his early days in New York. Perhaps you’ve heard distant rumors that, before Starbucks, artists and intellectuals used to hang out in Greenwich Village coffee shops. Poons didn’t just hang in one; along with painter friends Don McAree and Howard Smythe, he ran it—the Epitome, at 165 Bleecker Street, in 1959 and early 1960. It became a gathering place and performance venue not only for Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac (“He used to bang on my guitar like a bongo drum,” Poons recalls), but also for a group of young musicians and artists who had taken the

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