In the upcoming exhibition “Martin Wong – Malicious Mischief”, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art will present the first-ever European overview of works by the American-Chinese artist Martin Wong (1946–1999). The exhibition offers a comprehensive view of Wong’s oeuvre, beginning in 1968 in California, his iconic paintings from his years in New York in the 1980s, and his later works produced until Wong died of AIDS in 1999 in San Francisco.
The autodidactically trained artist concentrated on underrepresented, yet socially relevant themes related to gender, marginalised sexuality and immigrant communities. As a homosexual Sino-American, he lived in the Latino quarter “Loisaida” in New York’s Lower East Side in the 1980s where he depicted the social reality of his neighbours. Wong documented the urban disintegration and evictions which occurred in this borough of New York before it was transformed by a wave of gentrification. Street culture, graffiti, criminality, drugs and a community of immigrants who had built a life for themselves despite precarious circumstances are among the recurrent themes in Wong’s artwork. Strategies of self-empowerment and the poetry of everyday life comprise the core message in many of his paintings.
Martin Wong’s early, transgressive works played a role in his own marginalisation during his lifetime in the official art historiography. It was only after his death that critics began reflecting on his legacy and acknowledging its significance in the context of queerness, community engagement and diversity. With the exhibition “Martin Wong – Malicious Mischief”, the curators aim to make Wong’s works visible in Europe and illustrate how minority communities are represented in painting.
Artistic director: Krist Gruijthuijsen
Curators: Krist Gruijthuijsen, Agustín Pérez-Rubio
Artist: Martin Wong
Speakers: David J. Getsy, Marci Kwon, Carlos Motta, Yasmil Raymond
Exhibition: KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin: 25 Feb. – 15 May 2023
KW Institute for Contemporary Art
KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V.