Arts preview: Martin Wong: Human Instamatic

Jim Fischer

Street-life artist Martin Wong's moniker, "human instamatic," was conceived by the artist himself as a way to explain his affinity for capturing scenes of urban life.

Wong, a California native who found his artistic voice upon moving to New York's Lower East Side in the late 1970s, became immersed in the culture(s) of his neighborhood, then pre-gentrification.

"His community was largely African-American and Puerto Rican, surrounded by early hip-hop and graffiti artists, although he was not one himself," said Curator At-Large for the Wexner Center, Bill Horrigan. "Martin documented the look of the Lower East Side before it became totally gentrified. He painted his world."

Horrigan said the Chinese-American painter was recognized during his life, but became much more famous following his death from AIDS in 1999, at age 53.

"He was incredibly inventive as a painter. His vision was gritty and urban. One thing striking was the varied dimensions of his work - he used round and octagonal canvasses, or two panels that were not the same size, a wide array of formal variation."

This exhibition was originally organized by The Bronx Museum of the Arts.

Wexner Center for the Arts

May 14 through Aug. 7

1871 N. High St., Campus