January 13 - February 22, 1998
Sweet Oblivion: The Urban Landscape of Martin Wong was the first museum survey of a Chinese-American artist’s rapturous visions of ethnic urban experience. Born and raised in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and a resident of New York’s Lower East Side since the early 1980s, Wong became highly acclaimed for his paintings of crumbling tenement façades in fantastic landscapes featuring gilded constellation diagrams, stylized hearing-impaired symbols, and street-beat poetry by Miguel Piñero. Even within the quirky, flashier-than-thou East Village art scene in the 1980s Wong’s paintings always stood out. An eccentric character in the art world—a Chinese-American portraying a Hispanic neighborhood—he revitalized traditional landscape paintings with bricks, iron gates, chain link, sign language, and verse.
Thirty-four paintings dating from 1983 to 1993 were included. This exhibition, which was partially funded by the Illinois Arts Council, traveled to The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City from May-September, 1998. Rizzoli International and The New Museum co-published a 96-page color catalogue with essays by Carlo McCormick, Lydia Yee, Yasmin Ramirez, and co-curators Dan Cameron and Barry Blinderman.
Wong’s paintings are now included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The National Gallery of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, The Art Institute of Chicago, and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
January 20, 7 pm