John Evans (who was born in Sioux Falls in North Dakota, but grew up in California) moved to NYC in 1963, having recently graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago. In the Big Apple he immediately part of the vibrant local community of poets and artists, befriending of masters of modern art such as Alice Neel. He became a member of New York’s Neo-Dada movement, and one was one of the pioneers of Mail Art, exchanging with Ray Johnson, a close friend of his, several creations of Mail Art. Only one year after his arrival to NYC, Evans radically changed the approach to his artistic research. Even if he still worked on large sized canvases, 1964 set the beginning of his methodical daily production of collages, which went on for 36 years. A collection of collages of more than 1340 items; one collage a day during 36 years, with each collage punctually inserted in a folder used as a diary every month. These are unique and absolutely original pieces, assembled while hanging around the streets of the East Village. Any object which caught his eye and attention was collected. Any type of discarded paper, in any form or colour, from subway tickets to labels of wine bottles, from theatre invites to the remains of torn letters, to which he sometimes added a comment or detail, autobiographical elements such as family pictures or postcards from friends. An assembly of pieces delicately re-composed on normal sheets of paper, finally giving shape to extremely refined, elegant drawings, sealed by stamps bearing the date of creation. A mix of hints of private, autobiographical and collective memories, re-assembled in frames. Inside each frame, at the bottom, a drawing of goose , an homage to the artist and writer Ursula Molinaro, who introduced him in the New York art milieu at the beginning of his career.
At the end of the year 2000 Evans stopped producing his daily collages, only to resume his work seven years later, but only sporadically, with larger-sized collages. His pilgrimages around the streets of the East Village did not stop there. From 2000 to 2007 he started to collect a wide variety of small objects found on the streets, which he stored in glass bottles of various shapes and dimensions. When in 2007 he started working on collages again, he went back to the origins of artistic path, and started to work again on large canvases. With his collages, John Evans transforms other people’s leftovers into precious fragments of their lives, because beneath every single small piece of paper lies inevitably a private story, a private moment, a thought, an action, pain and joy, the start of a relationship, or a break up. On one side then, there was an opening towards the outside world, made of his manic daily meanderings in the streets of NYC in search of the means to his creative process. On the other hand, we can note the intimacy and privacy of his house, his atelier, the place of true creation: of the re-appropriation and re-elaboration of other people’s fragments of life, sometimes linked to his own existence. The result of all this is an ensemble of small masterpieces portraying the trends, customary habits, and general mood of a whole generation, in America, and the world.
John Evans was an authentic person, assembling his daily collages was a job like any other for him, which he performed with seriousness and rigour inside his home.