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  • In the recent sold-out exhibition at P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York, Martin Wong’s urban portraits of 1980s New York were juxtaposed with those of contemporary painter Aaron Gilbert, made over three decades later. Despite the changes New York has faced since Wong’s Reagan-era scenes against backdrops of tenement homes and urban detritus, Gilbert’s reprisal of the same themes of community, love, and loss show that so much remains the same. His emotionally charged scenes of both solitude and support on city streets are reminiscent of Wong’s paintings of some of the same intersections, illustrating that while the physical city may change, the relationships within, both with others and with oneself, are timeless.

     

     

    Autobiographical Urbanity

     

    On the occasion of the show, Rich Blint described Wong’s works as those which explore “autobiographical urbanity.”i What we see in his textured compositions, framed by brick buildings and glowing windows, are figures enveloped by their surroundings. In Sergio Smoking a Cigarette And Thinks About All That Happened Two Nights Ago, the single figure occupies a small area of the lower right quadrant, making the titular intersection of Manhattan’s Lower East Side as much if not more of the subject as the man himself. Sergio, as he is so named in the inscription along the lower edge, is smoking, while “thinking about everything that happened two nights ago.” Above him is a fiery red sky, ominously glowing between brick and concrete structures, but instead of looking up at the angry night, Sergio is looking down introspectively. His position exemplifies that no matter our surroundings, humans have and always will crave human connection above all else, looking inward at ourselves and our relationships before we look up. While the corner of Essex and Houston might have changed dramatically since Wong’s 1983 depiction, his “deeply sensitive and socially acute visuality” is just as relevant today as it was then.ii


    i, ii Rich Blint, “Concrete Abstractions: Notes on the Imaginative Geography of a City” in Martin Wong & Aaron Gilbert, 1981—2021, exh. cat., P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York, 2021, n.p.

    • Provenance

      Semaphone Gallery, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Hartford, Real Art Ways, Street Politics, 1984

108

Sergio Smoking a Cigarette And Thinks About All That Happened Two Nights Ago

signed, inscribed and dated "ESSEX NEAR HOUSTON STREET MARTIN WONG 1983" upper edge; titled in Spanish "SERGIO FUMABA UN CIGARRILLO MIENTRAS PENSABA EN TODO LO OCCURRIDO DOS NOCHES ATRAS" lower edge
acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm)
Painted in 1983.

Full Cataloguing

Estimate
$60,000 - 80,000 

Sold for $478,800

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 24 June 2021