Past Exhibitions

Martin Wong: Human Instamatic

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“A complete view of one of our great urban visionaries”—New York Times

Encounter Martin Wong’s “heartrending, bewitching works” (ARTnews) in this comprehensive survey that collects more than 90 paintings from every stage of his career—formally inventive canvases that are in turn lyrical, gritty, and lovingly observant of the world as he found it.

A West Coast native, the Chinese American artist (b. 1946) came of age during San Francisco’s countercultural movements of the late 1960s. But it was only with his move to New York City in 1978 that Wong emerged as a visionary poet of the urban landscape. With the pregentrified Lower East Side as his home base, Wong became a key participant-witness in the visual art scenes exploding throughout Manhattan during the 1980s. His varied, often haunting paintings of that period vividly capture the multiethnic communities that he called home: from the bold looks of Chinatown to the beleaguered brick facades of tenement buildings adorned with graffiti and commercial signage. Wong returned to San Francisco in 1994 when falling ill from AIDS-related complications, and he continued to produce works of unique and intimate observation there until his untimely death in 1999.

Titled Human Instamatic, after a term Wong coined to describe his skill at painting street portraits, this survey also includes fascinating, rarely seen archival materials, many of them from the Martin Wong Papers at Fales Library, New York University. Incorporating elements from classic Chinese art and homages to 20th-century American urban painting, whose traditions his own work was extending, Wong’s dazzling achievement is forcefully honored by this exhibition, which Hyperallergic called “one of the best museum shows to open last year.” Originally presented at the Bronx Museum, Martin Wong: Human Instamatic makes the first stop of its national tour at the Wex.

Martin Wong: Human Instamatic was organized by The Bronx Museum of the Arts and curated by Antonio Sergio Bessa, director of curatorial and education programs, and Yasmin Ramírez, adjunct curator.

The exhibition is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Henry Luce Foundation, E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Eric Diefenbach and JK Brown, Florence Wong Fie and the Martin Wong Foundation, Melva Bucksbaum and Raymond Learsy, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, P.P.O.W Gallery, and other individuals. Archival materials courtesy of The Estate of Martin Wong / P.P.O.W Gallery and the Fales Library of New York University.

Painting of an eight ball surrounded in flames against a background of constellations

Martin Wong 
Tell My Troubles to the Eight Ball (Eureka), 1978–81
Acrylic on canvas
48 x 48 in.
Collection of Daniel S. Berger, MD

installation view in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Wexner Center. Photo: Stephen Takacs.

installation view in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Wexner Center. Photo: Stephen Takacs.

installation view in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Wexner Center. Photo: Stephen Takacs.

installation view in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Wexner Center. Photo: Stephen Takacs.

installation view in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Wexner Center. Photo: Stephen Takacs.

installation view in the Wexner Center galleries

Installation view of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Wexner Center. Photo: Stephen Takacs.

Self portrait of Martin Wong in large cowboy hat

Martin Wong
Self-Portrait, 1993
Acrylic on canvas
40 in. diameter 
Courtesy of the Estate of Martin Wong and P.P.O.W, New York

Painting of several illustrative hands using sign langauge

Martin Wong
Brainwashing Cult Cons Top TV Stars, 1981
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 40 in.
Collection of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, Gift of JP Morgan Chase

Painting showing the back of a man on a motorcycle at an intersection

Martin Wong 
El Caribe, 1988
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 40 in.
Collection of Francisco Hernandez

Large mural reproduction of one of Martin Wong's street scenes in the Wexner Center lobby

Installation view of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Wexner Center. Photo: Stephen Takacs.

SUPPORT FOR MARTIN WONG: HUMAN INSTAMATIC

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

Henry Luce Foundation

 

SUPPORT FOR FREE AND LOW-COST PROGRAMS

Huntington

Cardinal Health Foundation

 

GENERAL OPERATING SUPPORT
FOR THE WEXNER CENTER

Greater Columbus Arts Council

Ohio Arts Council

The Columbus Foundation

Nationwide Foundation

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Past   Exhibitions

Martin Wong: Human Instamatic