John Giorno “Everyone Gets Lighter” at Max Wigram Gallery, London
Max Wigram Gallery is pleased to present EVERYONE GETS LIGHTER, the first one-person exhibition in the UK by American artist and poet John Giorno.
For almost half a century, Giorno has been exploring and developing new media through which poetry can be disseminated and reach new audiences, an operation he continues with this exhibition. With twenty-four new watercolour Poem Paintings, a performance, and the iconic Dial-a-Poem, the exhibition offers an overview of how the Giorno seeks alternative ways of writing and presenting his poetry and connecting with an audience in powerful ways, inviting us to reflect on how we perceive words, and images.
In the Poem Paintings, Giorno transposes punchy sentences from his own poems onto paper in bold, white capital letters reminiscent of newspaper headlines – a font that he developed with a graphic designer, and has been using since 1984. The words are set off against painterly backgrounds of pastel- toned washes of colour. The viewer both reads and looks at the charged sentences like thanks 4 nothing or just say no to family values, engaging with the poem on two different, simultaneous yet exclusive levels. Giorno provides a visual and narrative anchor by presenting the watercolours in a sequence that follows the chromatic spectrum: from yellow to blue to green, a poetic narrative is developed through purely visual means. In these works thus, painting becomes a vehicle for poetry.
The search for new media for poetic dissemination led Giorno to integrate technology into his work, creating the seminal Dial-a-Poem. A project that was famously presented at MoMA in 1970 and again in 2012, Dial-a-Poem brings people over two hundred random poems read aloud by their authors, including musicians, artists and writers who were friends and colleagues of Giorno – including Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, John Cage and Allen Ginsberg. At Max Wigram Gallery, visitors will be able to call poems from a telephone in the exhibition, or online.
These aural, visual and textual venues for the circulation of poetry conflate in Giorno’s powerful performance, with which he inaugurated the exhibition. The incisive pronunciation and forceful delivery recall the headline-style font of the Poem Paintings, and the presence of the poet’s own body seems to transform the words into palpable entities, engaging with the audience in a physical, visceral manner.
All of Giorno’s projects to date have had one purpose: to connect with an audience. In EVERYONE GETS LIGHTER, Giorno succeeds by presenting poetry that is not only read, but also experienced.
until 18 January 2014
Above – HAPPY THANK YOU MORE PLEASE, 2013
I WANT TO CUM IN YOUR HEART, 2013
THE WORLD JUST MAKES ME LAUGH, 2013
NOTHING NEW, 2013
THANKS 4 NOTHING, 2013
GOOD AS IT GETS, 2013
JUST SAY NO TO FAMILY VALUES, 2013
FILLING WHAT IS EMPTY, EMPTYING WHAT IS FULL, 2013
FRIENDS ALWAYS BECOME ENEMIES, 2013
LIFE IS A KILLER, 2013
EVERYONE GETS LIGHTER, 2013
John Giorno, “Everyone Gets Lighter” installation view at Max Wigram Gallery, London, 2013
Courtesy: the artist; Max Wigram Gallery, London