“I chose love and friendship over work, then work and friendship over suspended disbelief – won’t love conquer all?” —Bill Berkson
As soon as I met Ugo Rondinone in the fall of 2011, I immediately recognized a unique alchemy of love and friendship that made up his entire being as a person and as an artist—a rare incarnation. Given the prevailing decrees imposed by social and political dogmas, which have become amplified by the Trump Administration and the seductive power of technology and social media that tends to confuse anxiety with fear, we’re becoming more aware of our limited ability to stand up for the freedom of imagination and self-expression. When Ugo asked me, just a few months ago, whether the Rail would consider collaborating with him and his team, led by the resilient Mattias Herold, on this special project, I remember being amazed by Ugo’s transparency of this undertaking in all aspects: the title of the retrospective I ♥ John Giorno, Ugo is the curator, both John and Ugo are married, they’re both artists, and they love being part of the countercultural community that nurtures them. I naturally am in accord with Ugo’s aspiration to share a testament of love and friendship in the name of “art”—with an aim to liberate any form of constraints, be they superimposed by social and political norms or self-imposed.
I’d like to acknowledge the Rail team for their focused and energetic completion of this worthwhile project: our two art directors Lauren Francescone and Erik Freer; the editorial front, comprised of managing editor Charles Schultz, and the production team led by Yasaman Alipour, Connie Kang, and Louis Block working with Will Whitney, Cal McKeever, Kikuko Tanaka, Anna Lee, Kelton Ellis, Nicholas Heskes, and Vered Engelhard. Thank you for your focus and dedication working on both this special edition and our summer issue simultaneously. And to our Managing Director Dana Buhl, Rocio Olivares, our Advertising Director, and Cy Morgan, production manager (all are artists recently graduated from Columbia University MFA). I should mention that, even though the Rail has just begun with the new team, I am so taken by everyone’s self-direction. They seem aware that, to paraphrase John Steinbeck, “the profession of [publishing] makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.”
Lastly, this dedication to John and Ugo is equally shared with Laura Hoptman, curator extraordinaire of contemporary art in the department of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, and Mónica de La Torre, Bonderman assistant professor of the Practice of Literary Arts at Brown University (former poetry editor of the Rail, 2002-2007, former senior editor at BOMB magazine 2007-2016). It has been our privilege and pleasure to be working with Laura and Mónica’s editorship. They’re ardently brilliant in their editorial insights, and simply ideal collaborators in every which way. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed their fluid rapport and excitement, with the project and everyone involved. Let’s keep this spirit alive and thriving my friends.
Phong Bui is the Publisher and Artistic Director of the Brooklyn Rail.