– Contents

Martin Wong, New York, 1986. From the “Artist in Action” album, courtesy of the Martin Wong Foundation.

The MWCR is divided into three major sections: an “About” section, the essays, and the image catalog. The “About” section begins with an illustrated narrative chronology that highlights significant milestones in Wong’s life and career. It was written by Mark Dean Johnson, with the input of the Quality Assurance and Editorial Team.

The chronology is followed by a research guide authored by Catherine Aster (senior digital library services manager in the Digital Library Systems and Services department of the Stanford Libraries) and the entire editorial team. The guide highlights in greater detail the functionality of the site and explains key decisions that the Quality Assurance and Editorial Team was forced to reckon with as we embraced a digital humanities format for this catalogue raisonné.

The selected bibliography appearing here includes books, essays, articles, and reviews, along with other publications by and about Wong and his work. The bibliography is followed by an exhibition history that includes several small exhibitions in clubs and venues that have not been previously noted. The acknowledgments section recognizes the contributions of individuals, at the Stanford Libraries and across the country, without whom this project would not have been possible.

Also appearing in this section is a wealth of never-before published primary sources about Wong. These include a transcript of the aforementioned interview of Wong by Machida and the transcript of a new interview between Gary Ware and Marci Kwon. This latter interview ranges from anecdotes about what it was like to share a dorm room with Wong at Humboldt State University and observations about Wong’s experiences as an artist in New York in the 1980s to his homecoming in San Francisco, where he lived his last days. Also included is an hour-long audio recording of Wong’s 1991 artist’s talk at San Francisco Art Institute and an eighteen-minute film portrait of Wong by Charlie Ahearn, completed in 1998.

Martin Wong at Semaphore Gallery exhibition, 1984. Page 6 from album “Shows at Semaphore,” courtesy of the Martin Wong Foundation.

Essays

Solomon Adler’s essay “Mystic Savage Twilight Child: Martin Wong, Clay, and the California Counterculture” analyzes a body of ceramic works (sculptures and poetry slabs) that Wong created between 1966 and 1973. Adler explores these works in the context of the Bay Area’s approach to the counterculture as well as developments in ceramics in California, including the Funk movement propelled by Robert Arneson.

“Is There Any Name for This Love? A Queer Reading of Martin Wong,” by Louise Siddons, focuses on the ways Wong “experienced, expressed, and embodied his gay identity.” In analyzing Wong’s works largely from the 1980s, she argues against an essentialist reading in favor of an intersectional one. Her essay includes a literature review of queer theory revealing that it had been formulated only in the 1990s, coinciding only with the tail end of Wong’s life and career.

Margo Machida’s “Martin Wong: Renewing Our Conversation” draws upon an interview she conducted with Wong in 1989 (the transcript of which is published here for the first time). She argues that, although Wong worked assiduously to prevent his Chinese American identity from being a trap and the singular driving force driving any and all interpretations of his work, she calls out the “signal importance of his Chinese heritage as a fulcrum for Wong to broadly envision a range of transcultural interactions—both historical and modern.”

In “Pieces of the Puzzle: Martin Wong’s Multiplicity,” Mark Dean Johnson sheds light on the array of cultural referents typically found in Wong’s art, starting with his work from the 1970s. He points out Wong’s quadrilingual approach to his paintings (Chinese, English, Spanish, and American Sign Language, or fingerspelling), and the artist’s simultaneous referencing of multiple art historical traditions (e.g., Chinese landscape painting and calligraphy and American comics and cartoon characters). Johnson notes the formal complexity in Wong’s work as a result of his clustering of canvases, one atop another, in some of his installations.

In his afterword, Doryun Chong recounts his time as a curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where he oversaw the acquisition of two works by Wong. Chong also describes his endeavor to curate a group exhibition featuring Wong’s works in Hong Kong.

Image Catalog

The heart of the MWCR are the more than eight hundred records that document Wong’s artworks, scrupulously executed by Anneliis Beadnell, archivist to the estate. A number of objects are represented with multiple photographs, including ceramics meant to be seen in the round. Wong’s artists’ books—including Poem Book (1967), Das Puke Book (1977), and Eureka (1977)—will be featured in a future update to the catalogue raisonné.