Martin Wong was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1946 and moved in New York in 1978. His work, characterised by a visionary and meticulous realism, is one of the remarkable legacies of the 1980s East Village artistic scene, and anticipates the interest that arose in the 1990s in questions of identity. After gaining a diploma in ceramics and a spending period performing in the streets of San Francisco with the gay group Angels of Light, he decided to become a painter and began the lengthy and solitary process of mastering figurative art. In New York, he settled in the Lower East Side and became part of its diverse Hispanic community, which he also depicted. Crumbling brick buildings, walls covered in graffiti, shops with rusty window bars, neighbours with bodies covered in tattoos: in his unique style, Wong depicted the life that passed beneath his windows, fusing the decorative, the real, the documentary, the fantastic, the religious and the erotic. He died of AIDS in 1999, at just 53.
Wong’s work has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions in the leading museums in the United States, Mexico, Spain, Germany, and in personal exhibitions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the San Francisco Art Institute, Exit Art and the PPOW gallery in New York.