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The Bard of New York John Giorno, one of the last great underground artists, is being celebrated in a citywide exhibition. It only took 80 years…



AMERICAN CLASSIC: Giorno, surrounded by his own artworks, in his studio in 2007.

A NYBODY WHO LIVED through the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s and survived would have many stories to tell,” says John Giorno. Perhaps, but they’d be hard-pressed to match this poet and artist’s outsized life and influence, the inspiration behind the summer-long “Ugo Rondinone: I John Giorno” exhibition that will spread across 13 New York City venues.

Like a Zelig with talent, Giorno has been a fixture of the city’s art scene since the late ’50s, pushing poetry out of its dusty corner and into the vanguard—presaging, among other things, slam poetry. “John is fundamentally a poet, but in the old-school sense of the word, like a bard, and he will use whatever tools he needs to sing, whether it’s the written word on the page, or a painting or performance,” says Laura Hoptman, an art historian and curator of painting and sculpture at New York’s MoMA. “He lives poetry. It’s his vocation, as opposed to what he does for a living.”

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