It’s safe to say that no point in history has been more thoroughly documented in images than this one. Yet sometimes the slowed-down processes of painting and drawing reveal far more than the click of a shutter.
Martin Wong: Human Instamatic, organized by the Bronx Museum of the Arts and currently on view at the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), offers a tender chronicle of the communities the artist inhabited. An openly-gay, Chino-Latino painter described by Dan Cameron as “the quintessential outsider,” Wong (1946-1999) was a keen and compassionate observer of people and places that were often dismissed, neglected, or relegated to the shadows and fringes. Moving to New York from San Francisco in 1978, Wong painted his Lower East Side neighborhood and neighbors — poets and prisoners, addicts and immigrants, street kids and firemen — with a mix of compassion and matter-of-factness that provides uncanny insight into the time and place in which they were made.
A concurrent BAMPFA exhibition, Veronica De Jesus / MATRIX 268, presents another approach to chronicling the lives of individuals, here on the occasion of their deaths. From 2004 to 2016, De Jesus made “memorial drawings” of people who inspired her, from celebrities and statesmen to fellow artists, activists, community organizers, and neighbors. Displayed in its entirety for the first time, the 239-drawing series offers an evolving record of accomplishment and loss, presented with a loving vision that, like Wong’s, embraces the dignity and depth of each life, just as it was lived.
Martin Wong: Human Instamatic continues at BAMPFA (2155 Center St, Berkeley, California) through December 10, 2017.
Veronica De Jesus / MATRIX 268 continues at BAMPFA (2155 Center St, Berkeley, California) through February 26, 2018.
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