March 3, 2015

Martin Wong: Painting Is Forbidden

California College of the Arts (CCA)
Martin Wong, As Seen on T.V.— It’s Fun to Shop and Save, 1981. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the Estate of Martin Wong and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York.

Martin Wong: Painting Is Forbidden is a solo exhibition dedicated to the work of Chinese-American artist Martin Wong (1946–99) that encompasses writing, calligraphy, drawing, ceramics, theatrical set design, painting, poetry, and collage. Curated by the 2015 Master’s degree candidates in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts, Painting Is Forbidden will be on view at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts from March 13 to April 18.

Wong is known primarily for the paintings he produced while operating in the dynamic subcultures of the Nuyorican poets and graffiti artists of 1970s and 1980s New York City. But prior to this period, Wong, who grew up in San Francisco and studied in Eureka, California, had already produced a wild and curious body of work. He was a prolific poet and ceramicist, a psychedelic painter, an artistic collaborator in the radical communal theater of the Angels of Light, and a self-described “Human Instamatic.” The title of the exhibition, taken from Wong’s writing, describes this restless, free-thinking practice beyond the paintings for which he is most recognized.

Drawn from the artist’s archives at the Fales Library at New York University, the artist’s estate at P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York, the de Young Museum, and private collections in Northern California, the exhibition includes over 150 works and ephemera by the artist from across his career, most of which have never before been presented. Though Wong has been exhibited nationally and internationally in recent years in New York City, Berlin, and Hong Kong, this will be the first expansive and cross-media exhibition of his work in San Francisco, the city the artist called home.

The exhibition is accompanied by My Trip to America by Martin Wong, a fully illustrated 146-page publication that continues the research work of the exhibition, offering additionally the voice of the artist in the form of an edited transcript of a talk that Wong gave at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1991, a conversation with the Angels of Light, and a speculative review of Wong’s astrological chart by the poet Stuart Krimko. Together with a number of other texts, these writings afford an expanded understanding of the artist’s work by focusing on many of the aspects of his practice until now considered peripheral. They are animated by a wealth of reproductions unearthed from the personal collections of the artist’s friends and collaborators and from the considerable archives of the artist, housed at NYU’s Fales Library and Archive.

March 28
Para/Site Art Space curator Cosmin Costinas, who included Martin Wong’s work in his exhibition Taiping Tianguo, A History of Possible Encounters, will give a public talk exploring the artist’s life and art.

April 18
A séance and poetry reading will be held at the Wattis Institute at 7pm to summon Martin Wong’s poems and writings. Rather than honor the memory of the artist in a conventional way, this public event will enliven Wong’s practice through direct experience of the artist’s words.

Visit the website and see our calendar for current information concerning exhibitions, related programs, screenings, lectures, and events.


About CCA’s Graduate program in Curatorial Practice
Founded in 2003, CCA’s Graduate program in Curatorial Practice offers an expanded perspective on curating contemporary art and culture. Alongside traditional forms of exhibition making, this two-year Master’s degree program emphasizes the momentous impact over the last half-century of artist-led initiatives, public art projects, site-specific commissions, and other experimental endeavors that take place beyond the confines of established venues. The program is distinguished by an international, interdisciplinary perspective, and it reflects San Francisco’s unique location and cultural history by placing a particular importance on the study of curatorial and artistic practices in Asia and Latin America.

About the CCA Wattis Institute
The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts was established in 1998 in San Francisco at California College of the Arts. It serves as a forum for the presentation and discussion of international contemporary art and curatorial practice. Through groundbreaking exhibitions, the Capp Street Project residency program, lectures, symposia, and publications, the Wattis Institute has become one of the leading art institutions in the United States and an active site for contemporary culture in the Bay Area.

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