March 15–May 27, 2013
In 2012, Danh Vo (b. 1975, Bà Rịa, Vietnam) was named the winner of the Hugo Boss
Prize, a biennial award that recognizes significant achievement in contemporary art.
Vo’s work illuminates the entwined strands of private experience and collective history
that shape our sense of self. Emerging from a process of research, chance encounters,
and delicate personal negotiations, his installations unearth the latent connotations and
memories embedded in familiar forms.
The title of this exhibition, I M U U R 2,
is derived from a formulation used by the artist Martin Wong
(1946–1999) on his business cards and stamps. Vo has long been
fascinated by the life and work of Wong, a visionary painter and beloved
figure of New York’s downtown art scene of the 1980s and ’90s. After
acquiring one of Wong’s works, Vo struck up a correspondence with the
artist’s mother, Florence Wong Fie, and eventually visited her home in
San Francisco. There, he discovered a remarkable collection of objects
ranging from curios and tourist souvenirs to rare antique ceramics and
scrolls of calligraphy, interspersed with numerous examples of Wong’s
paintings and works on paper.
obsessive collector with an astute eye for overlooked finds, Wong had
collaborated with his mother since childhood to assemble an evolving
constellation of artifacts—a project that culminated during the last
five years of his life, when he returned to his family home to undergo
treatment for an AIDS-related illness. Giving equal weight to the
rarefied and the disposable, the collection expresses Wong’s omnivorous desire to absorb
and understand his cultural environment. Much of the collection focuses on exuberant
Americana and sentimental keepsakes, but Wong also examined the problematic aspects
of American popular history, creating clusters of objects that depict racist caricatures.
At the time of his death in 1999, the collection had grown to cover almost every surface
in the house, where it has been carefully preserved by Florence Wong Fie ever since.
In this installation, Vo has configured a selection of objects drawn from the Wong
collection. Elucidating the affinities between the two artists, the gesture merges
their individual processes through a creative exchange that transcends historical
circumstances and challenges the traditional concept of the stable, authored artwork.
—Katherine Brinson, Associate Curator
This exhibition is made possible by HUGO BOSS.
Objects from the collection of Martin Wong. Photo: Heinz Peter Knes