Chinese-American artist Martin Wong was born in 1946 and raised in San Francisco. In 1968, Wong earned a degree in ceramics from Humboldt State University, where he enrolled in every art course available. After college, he designed sets, props and flyers for radical queer performance art troupes The Cockettes and Angels of Light. Wong moved to New York City in 1978. He lived and worked in an SRO hotel near the South Street Seaport before settling in Loisaida – the Lower East Side’s historic Hispanic enclave – in 1982.
Overlooking his adopted neighborhood from a six-floor walkup on Ridge St., Wong documented the vibrancy and desolation of life in mid-80s Loisaida. Informed by his ceramics training, he developed a meticulous painting technique to realistically render the neighborhood’s brick buildings. Wong also developed a collaborative relationship with Nuyorican poet and playwright Miguel Piñero, whose experiences in prison and on the streets profoundly shaped Wong’s work and romantic outlook. Obsessed by codes of communication, Wong energized his artworks with Piñero’s poetry, Zodiac constellations, calligraphy, newspaper headlines, sign language alphabets, hand-painted signs and graffiti. “Basically, I’m a Chinese landscape painter,” Wong told the East Village Eye in 1984. “If you look at all the Chinese landscapes in the museums, they have writing in the sky. They write a poem in the sky and I do that, too.” Additionally, Wong was a strong supporter of New York graffiti writers. In 1989, he co-founded the short-lived Museum of American Graffiti on Bond St., and later donated his extensive graffiti collection — including work by Daze and Lee Quiñones, among many others — to the Museum of the City of New York.
In 1994, after learning he was HIV positive, Wong returned to San Francisco to receive treatment. There, he made paintings depicting the Chinatown of his youth, and continued building a vast antique collection with his mother, Florence. In 1999, Wong passed away from AIDS-related complications; he was 53-years-old. His paintings, wrote curator Barry Blinderman, "charted a world of unquenchable desire – the steadily burning flame of unrequited love, the junkie’s endless craving for oblivion, the poet’s wheel of misfortune, the alchemist or astrologer’s quest for meaning in the elements and stars.”
This Fall, Supreme has worked with the Estate of Martin Wong on a collection featuring Wong's artwork. The collection consists of a Schott® Leather Varsity Jacket, two Rayon Shirts, S/S Top, Hooded Sweatshirt, three T-Shirts, two Skateboards and a Beanie.
Select pieces available in Supreme stores and online November 14th.
Select pieces available in Japan stores and online November 16th.