Exhibitions: In and Out of Place
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This object is a member of the following groups (click any group name to view all objects in that group):Exhibitions: In and Out of Place
Exhibitions: Learning to Look: The Addison at 90
Wong was among a group of young artists working in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the Lower East Side in Manhattan. These artists included Keith Haring, Nan Goldin, Kenny Scharf, Jeff Koons, Peter Hujar, David Wojnarowicz, and others. Over the years, they went in many different directions, but during their early careers they were among the most experimental artists working in the country. Wong, who was openly gay, painted some pictures with explicitly gay themes and many others that were far more subtle and revolved around everyday life in his gritty neighborhood, a place where masculinity was often tied to violence, drug use, homophobia, and prison life.
The painting depicts Miguel Piñero, who appears at the base in near-profile. Piñero was an avant-garde writer and poet whose 1974 play, Short Eyes, written when he was 27, received the New York Drama Critics Award for the best play of the year and was the first play written by a Puerto Rican to run on Broadway. Piñero was involved with both men and women, and is thought to have been in an on and off relationship with Wong. His drama and poetry considered Puerto Rican life in the Lower East Side and his time in prison for armed robbery before he achieved fame as a writer. His work as a writer and occasional actor continued until shortly before his death at age 42 in 1988.
Piñero was an important figure for Wong in many respects. He was an older mentor for Wong and helped the Chinese American painter navigate life in what was largely a Puerto Rican community. His portrait has many meanings: a tribute to a close and intellectually intimate male friend and a cityscape showing the ubiquitous brick apartment buildings in that part of New York, as well as a piece of poetry. Wong paints Piñero’s poem, A Lower East Side Poem, in sign language taking up the top third of the picture.
This object was included in the following exhibitions:Secrets, Loss, Memory, and Courage: Works by Gay Male Artists, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/27/2013 - 7/31/2013
Loisaida: New York’s Lower East Side in the ’80s, Addison Gallery of American Art, 4/12/2014 - 7/31/2014
In and Out of Place , Addison Gallery of American Art, 2/16/2019 - 7/31/2019
Learning to Look: The Addison at 90, Addison Gallery of American Art, 5/8/2021 - 2/6/2022
Martin Wong: Malicious Mischief, KUNST-WERKE BERLIN e. V., 11/10/2022 - 2/28/2024
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