John Evans, 79, artist whose collages were a diary

John Evans. Photo by Clayton Patterson

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON   |  John Evans, an East Village artist who created a collage every day for nearly 40 years, died on Oct. 5.

According to Pavel Zoubok, who represented him at his Chelsea gallery, Evans died of a sudden heart attack, following an extended battle with hydrocephalus. He was 79.

Evans was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and moved to New York in 1963, settling on Avenue B in a four-room apartment renting for $35 a month.

Starting in 1964, he made a daily collage on a page of a bound sketchbook, date-stamping each work. Filling numerous books, he continued this practice through the year 2000. He chose to conclude the series on the millennium, which seemed to him an appropriate end date. A monograph, “John Evans: Collages,” was published in 2004.

His collage materials ranged from newspaper clippings, business cards, product stickers and ticket stubs to bits of ephemera or random photos found on the East Village streets. He used colored inks to build upon the collage elements. He employed abstraction, typography, ironic juxtaposition and Dada and Surrealist sensibility in his pieces.

His collages are mini-time capsules that mark the end of the Vietnam War, New York City’s 1970s fiscal crisis, the 1980s club scene and art market and the AIDS crisis and its devastating impact on the art world.

“It became not so much his diary, but a diary of everyday life — all the flotsam and jetsam of our lives,” said Zoubok in an interview with this newspaper two years ago when the gallery was showing an exhibit of Evans’s work. In that show, Evans wanted to focus on the Tompkins Square Park riots and gentrification. In addition to images of the clashes, his works of that period are interspersed with product labels of foods one would find in local bodegas.

“It was not just the East Village, but a particular slice of New York,” Zoubok said of those collages, “a kind of experience that, unfortunately, the gentrification of the city has kind of altered.”

In an interview two years ago, Evans told this newspaper that part of the reason he had remained on Avenue B was because his rent was still cheap — under $200.

A John Evans collage date-stamped July 7, 1989, including a newspaper clipping from the East Villager, on ongoing tensions a year after the Tompkins Square Park Riot. That East Villager, formerly published by Everything for Everybody, was not connected to the current East Villager and The Villager. Former Villager Publisher John W. Sutter and his wife, artist Kathleen Kucka, purchased the piece in 2010.

“I’ve lived here for 40 years or 50 years,” he said. “Everything has changed so many times. When I first came here, Avenue C was like going to Europe. There were people with pushcarts; they were selling buttons, chicken or eggs, whatever. Then the hippies and Puerto Ricans came… .”

Asked what the meaning of his diary of daily collages was, he said, “It’s just my life.”

He is survived by his wife, Margaret Evans, twin daughters, India Evans and Honor Evans, and their families.

2 Responses to John Evans, 79, artist whose collages were a diary

  1. John and I corresponded many years from 1987 to about 2000 when I could no longer afford stamps because I had to take care of a sick wife for the next 7 years anyway we had a great fun exchanging art I think one of the funniest story so he ever told me one day he had a visitor who came to his home to see his art during this time he showed the visitors some of my art that he had collected oh, he had about 27 pieces anyway the young lady said she like my art very much and could she have the 27 pieces to show in her Gallery in Paris, Sir John B a nice gentleman he said sure any gave the 27 pieces that I had done and sent John, later on she never returned and neither did the 27 pieces a follow-up email Art from Brooklyn who knew Paris pretty well informed me there was no such woman and no such Gallery in Paris and she had got the 27 artworks free and walked off with them one nice thing about John he called me every year for my birthday he told me he could remember because it was his wife birthday I used to call him quite often on the phone and we had great laughter and the storytelling I will miss John nice gentleman

  2. John was flawlessly a kind and gentle man. Elliott Lloyd and he went to Art Institute–Chicago– together. Elliott died April, 2017. I remember the apartment well, and John's pride in it. His works is as graceful as he was. Elliott and I lived on W. 12 Street, near Abingdon Square. We moved when the Mercedes started parking in front of our walk-up.

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