Bronx Museum Mounts Martin Wong’s First Museum Retrospective Since His Death

Martin Wong, The Annunciation According to Mikey Piñero (Cupcake and Paco), 1984, acrylic on canvas. Syracuse University Art Collection. Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.
Martin Wong, The Annunciation According to Mikey Piñero (Cupcake and Paco), 1984, acrylic on canvas. Syracuse University Art Collection. Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

This fall, artist Martin Wong will be celebrated with his first museum retrospective since his death in 1999.

The Bronx Museum of the Arts show will include over 100 works and pieces of archival material from the artist, who died from AIDS at 53. It’s the first extensive look at Wong in his adopted home since “Sweet Oblivion: The Urban Landscape of Martin Wong” at the New Museum in 1998, which included fewer than 40 paintings.

“Martin Wong: Human Instamatic” (November 5, 2015-February 14, 2016) will include not only Wong’s representations of the Lower East Side, where he lived in the 1980s and early ’90s, which includes lovingly painted crumbling tenement buildings, graffiti, and the Latin residents of the neighborhood.

The exhibition will also survey early work from San Francisco, where he grew up, when he was exploring ceramics and designing for street performance groups, and paintings he made after he returned to the Bay Area to live with his mother in the last years of his life.

Martin Wong, Starry Night, 1982, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Martin Wong, Starry Night, 1982, acrylic on canvas.
Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

The show is organized by Bronx Museum director of curatorial and education programs Sergio Bessa and adjunct curator Yasmin Ramírez. A catalogue, created in collaboration with London’s Black Dog Publishing, will include essays by artist/writer Julie Ault, Cooper Union Renaissance and Baroque art historian Benjamin Binstock, independent curator Dan Cameron (who organized the 1998 New Museum show), and poet/critic John Yau, along with Bessa.

Also included will be a previously unpublished interview with Wong by Ramírez. 

Martin Wong, Brainwashing Cult Cons Top TV Stars, 1981, acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Martin Wong, Brainwashing Cult Cons Top TV Stars, 1981, acrylic on canvas.
Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Wong has had a resurgence of attention in the last few years. In 2011, the Museum of Modern Art purchased his cityscape Stanton near Forsyth Street (1983).

Danh Vo devoted his 2013 Hugo Boss Prize show at New York’s Guggenheim Museum to the extensive collection of tchotchkes that Wong developed with his mother, and the Museum of the City of New York organized an exhibition of Wong’s collection of works by New York graffiti artists in 2014.

His estate is represented by P.P.O.W. gallery in New York, which frequently shows his work at art fairs.

Martin Wong, Closed, 1984-85, acrylic on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Martin Wong, Closed, 1984-85, acrylic on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Photo courtesy the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Related articles:

Martin Wong Show Reveals the Artist’s Wild San Francisco Roots

Destined For a Garage Sale, Martin Wong’s Collection is Saved by Danh Vō and the Walker Art Center


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