P·P·O·W is pleased to announce a show of work by Martin Wong. Martin Wong died in 1999, due to an AIDS related disease and this is his first show since his death. Martin Wong was born in 1946, in Portland, Oregon and moved to New York City in 1978. Martin Wong received a degree in ceramics until he decided to become a painter when he was thirty years old. He first started exhibiting at the Semaphore Gallery in New York. P·P·O·W has curated this show that concentrates on Wong’s most memorable works. This exhibition is based on his work in the mid-1980’s of tenement and storefront facades and works related to Chinatown. His show in 1988 was a mid-career retrospective at the New Museum and his work of his storefronts was in conjunction with the Sweet Oblivion catalog. Martin Wong’s last exhibition at P·P·O·W was in 1998.
This particular group of images deals with living in an urban environment, particularly in the East Village in New York City, where he decided to live. Wong lived and breathed in the heart of a Hispanic neighborhood where he got his inspiration of transforming decaying storefronts into elaborate, symbolic poetry. His work was not traditional landscape painting; however, they were a combination of intricate painting of bricks, link chains and words. In many of Wong’s paintings you will see the actual bricks that he viewed from his own studio window. The obsessive painting of bricks gave the illusion of texture, even though the work was quite flat. Wong also incorporated friends’ names or sign language into the paintings.
Beginning in 1985 Wong started painting practically life-size paintings of storefronts that the viewer can feel the sensation of walking through the front door. Although, the viewer may have had the impression of being able to physically walk into the storefront, the doors were all decayed or closed in reality. During this time he rendered the combination of painting and architecture, and it evolved into a spiritual concept, rather than an environment.
Martin Wong had one-person shows at Semaphore, Exit Art and San Francisco Art Institute, as well as, many group shows including Dia Center for the Arts, New Museum, and The Whitney Museum for American Art and P.S 1 Contemporary Art Center.