Martin Wong

Paintings by Martin Wong

Born in Portland, Oregon in July of 1946, Martin Wong was an American painter of Chinese-Mexican ancestry whose work was a studious blend of visionary and social realism art styles. His work explored different ethnic and racial identities, and acknowledged his own queer sexuality.

Raised by a supportive family in the Chinatown district of San Francisco, Martin Wong began to express his artistic inclination at an early age. He entered California’s Humboldt State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Ceramics in 1968. Wong won a competitive ceramics exhibition held in 1970 at San Francisco’s de Young Museum.

Wong resided in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district from 1964 to 1978. While at home, he studied art history and became interested in subjects such as modern painting and Asian decorative objects. During this period, Wong was active in the art scene of the Bay Area, often painting portraits under the pseudonym of Human Instamatic. He also served as the set designer for the art performance group The Angels of Light, a social trope that was part of the emerging gay consciousness of the period.

Encouraged by his friends’ response to his art, Wong made the decision in 1978 to settle in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for a career as an artist. Largely self-taught, his work was inspired by his immediate surroundings and ranged from uncompromising renderings of the Lower East Side’s decay to colorful paintings of the Chinatowns of New York and San Francisco. Wong also painted a series of work entitled “Traffic Signs for the Hearing Impaired”, artworks identical in color and shape to standard city traffic signs that utilized sign-language of the deaf to express their message.

In 1982 at the group exhibition “Crime Show” held at the collective gallery ABC No Rio in the Lower East Side, Martin Wong met poet Miguel Piñero, a leading member of the Nuyorican literary movement and author of the Pulitzer Prize winning play “Short Eyes”. Shortly after their meeting, Piñero moved into Wong’s apartment which began a relationship that would last until Piñero’s death in 1988. Through Piñero association, Wong became more integrated into the local Latino community; he began a series of collaborative work with Piñero that became entitled “Urban Landscapes”. This series of paintings combined Wong’s meticulous cityscapes and stylized sign-language with Piñero’s prose and poetry. Wong presented these paintings at a solo exhibition in 1984 at curator and recording artist Barry Blinderman’s Semaphore Gallery East.

In 1985 and 1986, Wong began a series of work entitled “The Last Picture Show”, a series of life-size images of shuttered storefronts. He amassed a large graffiti collection while living in New York and, in 1989, co-founded with friend Peter Broda the Museum of American Graffiti on the East Village’s Bond Street. By the 1990s, Wong’s work became quieter and more grim as gentrification took over the neighborhood and his peers were dying for drug addiction and AIDS.

In 1993, Matin Wong had a solo exhibition, “Chinatown Paintings”, at the San Francisco Art Institute. In these works based on his own memories and experiences, he presented an outsider’s view of Chinatown that lent itself more to myth than reality. Following complications in his health in 1994, Wong donated his graffiti collection to the Museum of the City of New York. In 1994, he was diagnosed with AIDS and, with declining health, moved back to San Francisco. He died under his parents’ care at the age of fifty-three from AIDS-related illness in August of 1999.

A retrospective of Martin Wong’s work was held at the Bronx Museum of Arts in 2015. His work can be found in many public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Syracuse University Collection, the Whitney Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

Note: Martin Wong’s 1984 painting, “My Secret World”, included in the above images, is an image of his first residence in Manhattan, a cheap hotel bedroom on the Lower East Side with a view to the South Street Seaport. The bedroom pictured is tidy with three of his earlier works on the walls. One depicts a series of hands sprouting from white cuff=links, The hands spell out in American Sign Language the words “Physiatrist Testify: Demon dogs drive man to murder”, which references the serial killer Son of Sam who stalked New York in 1983. Included in the books presented on the dresser are fictional works by Raymond Chandler and John Cheever.

Second Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Starry Night”, 1982, Oil on Canvas, 55.9 x 76.2 cm, Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York

Third Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Crossing Sign”, Traffic Signs for the Hearing Impaired Series, 1990, DOT Aluminum Steel Signs

Fourth Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Angelito”, 1992, Acrylic on Canvas, 61 x 56.2 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Martin Wong, “Tell My Troubles to the Eight Ball”, 1978-1981, Acrylic on Canvas, 122 x 122 cm, Private Collection

Denis Forkas

The Paintings of Denis Forkas

Born in 1977 in Kamyshin, a town on the Volga river, Denis Forkas Kostromitin is a Russian painter whose work explores religious and mythological symbolism in the tradition of ancient Mediterranean art. The son of a military officer, his childhood years were spent in various remote regions of the Soviet states. Forkas’s early nomadic existence with its isolation and lack of comforts led to self-education in artistic training and numerous sensory deprivation experiences, which later had a major impact on his artwork.

With little stimulus from the austere Soviet environment, Forkas eagerly consumed literature on the esoteric worlds of Egyptian and Greek mysticism and mythology. After the iron curtain’s collapse in 1991, new translations of literary works, including the esoteric writings of English occultist Aleister Crowley and French author Eliphas Levi, entered the Soviet states. Forkas studied these new volumes and the literature written by Western philosophers, which became available in the mid-1990s.

After the economic boom in the new century, Denis Forkas frequently visited China as a journalist, interpreter, and commercial representative. After meeting several painting masters in China, he was able to receive formal training for three years in traditional Eastern painting techniques, including those of the Xieyl and Gongbi art forms. 

Xieyl is a genre of Chinese traditional painting worked on xuan paper that uses either ink or layers of watercolor. This genre includes works of calligraphy, poem, painting and seal, of which freehand painting is the most influential and popular. Gongbi is a careful, realistic technique of Chinese painting, often highly-colored, that is worked  on xuan paper. This method uses highly-detailed brushstrokes that delineate details very precisely without interpretation or free expression on the part of the artist.

After leaving China, Forkas settled in Moscow to concentrate on his career path as a professional artist. His early work was inspired by German Expressionism and the late nineteenth-century Symbolist movement, which emphasized the reality of the created paint surface itself. These paintings by Forkas were influenced by the early abstract, experimental works of Wassily Kandinsky that, in an immediate way, were an expression of Kandinsky’s inner feelings.

Denis Forkas’s new work, still in the artistic traditions of ancient Near East civilizations, draw their inspiration from early Renaissance and  seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. Drifting away from the earlier predominant symbolist style, Forkas’s paintings became influenced by the works of Belgian painter Fernand Khnopff, who carried symbolism’s recurring themes into his portraits, and Russian painter Mikhail Vrubel, whose paintings in the latter portion of his life displayed a glowing, otherworldly mosaic effect that fit within the Byzantine tradition.

Since 2007, Forkas has privately taught the techniques of painting and drawing to students and has participated in various local and international exhibitions, including the October 2014 Image Show in London. Forkas has produced many drawings and paintings that have been featured as album covers for international music releases. Currently living and working in Moscow, he has contributed both work and an interview for the esoteric publisher Fulgur Press.

Contact information and a small gallery of work by Forkas can be found at his website located at: www.denisforkas.com

For those interested, a list of album cover art by Denis Forkas can be found at the Encyclopaedia Mettalum site located at: https://www.metal-archives.com/artists/Denis_Forkas_Kostromitin/436114

Second Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “The Hanged Man / Gift of Prometheus”, 2017, Acrylics and Gilding on Paper, 41.5 x 29.5 cm

Third Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Saglokratlok II”, 2017, Ink and Gouache on Paper, 24.1 x 18.5 cm

Bottom Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Between Two Worlds (Study for a Recurring Dream of Ichor Baptism Fashioned as a Portico Fresco Cartoon)”, 2016, Acrylics on Paper on Hardboard, 23.7 x 22.5 cm

Audrey Avinoff

Audrey Avinoff, Images from “The Fall of Atlantis” Series

In February of 1884, Andrey Avinoff was born to a wealthy Russian family in the town of Tulchyn, located in the western portion of Ukraine near the border of Moldova. Educated by private tutors on the family estate in the Ukraine, he was trained as a lawyer and diplomat at the University of Moscow, and became a gentlemen-in-waiting to the last tsar. A multi-faceted figure in the tradition of Da Vinci, Avinoff was equally at home in the worlds of art and science, spoke seven languages and read ten more, established an entomological library of seven-thousand volumes, and was an expert of Russian icons, Persian miniatures, and other esoteric subjects.

In his twenties, Avinoff inherited a bachelor uncle’s fortune and, pursuing his entomological interests, financed forty-two butterfly collecting expeditions between 1904 and 1914, including one to western Tibet in 1912. He eventually established himself as one of the world’s greatest butterfly collectors, with an initial collection of approximately eighty-thousand specimens, most of which came from central Asia. This collection was later impounded by the Bolsheviks during the Revolution and is now housed in the Zoological Museum in St. Petersburg. 

Due to his training in law and diplomacy, Audrey Avinoff was chosen by the Kerensky government of Russia to tundertake a purchasing mission in New York. Taking only one volume from his vast library, he left with his sister,  portrait painter Elizabeth Shoumatoff, on the last train out of St. Petersburg before the Revolution. When they arrived in New York several months later, the Russia they knew no longer existed. Avinoff decided to settle in Pittsburgh where, as a gay man, he lived a generally secluded upper-class life in the thriving city’s strongly elitist society.

After a brief career as a commercial artist, where he produced Art Deco advertising including work for Colgate toothpaste and Parliament cigarettes, Audrey Avinoff became an assistant curator of entomology in 1926 at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, under the directorship of William Rolland. Within a year, he became the director of the museum, a position he held until his retirement in 1946. During the 1930s, Avinoff, along with his nephew Nicholas Shoumanoff, made six trips to Jamaica, where he collected fourteen-thousand specimens of the island’s moths and butterflies. Returning home, he established a second entomological library and a three-thousand volumn library on Russian Decorative Art, which Avinoff bestowed to his nephew in his will. 

Following a decline in his health during the latter part of his life, Audrey Avinoff moved to New York and resumed his interest in painting. A talented artist since his early years, he worked in a variety of mediums, including pencil, ink, watercolor, and oil paints. Avinoff  produced over his lifetime an impressive number of extraordinary detailed watercolors, mostly of flowers and butterflies, which were scientifically accurate, but often phantasmagorical and mystical in style. Besides still-lifes and landscapes, he  also produced paintings with themes of religious, sexual or apocalyptic nature. 

Avinoff’s most known work is his “The Fall of Atlantis” series, which illustrated George V. Golokhvastoff’s two hundred-fifty page poem of the same name. The series consists of twenty three illustrations, done in black and white chalk with pencil and watercolor, some of which are heightened with body white. The work exemplifies the Art Deco style, which was popular in the 1930s, and incorporates a young male figure of mystical imagery. Published in 1938 as a limited edition and presented in two matching gray cloth drop-back boxes, the set also contained a self-portrait of Audrey Avinoff, done in pencil and initialed. 

Audrey Avinoff was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science from the University of Pittsburgh and was a member of the Entomological Society of America, having joined in 1939. Among Avinoff’s close friends were the Russian poet and novelist Vladmir Nabokov, author of “Speak, Memory” and “Lolita”, and biologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, both of whom were also interested in entomology. Audrey Avinoff died in July of 1949 at the age of sixty-five. 

Besides his work published in numerous science and botanical publications, Audrey Avinoff’s work is housed in the collections of the Audrey Avinoff Foundation, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University, and the Carnegie Museum of Art, as well as in many private collections.

Scott Facon

Paintings by Visionary Artist Scott Facon

What is displayed here is the work of visionary artist Scott Façon. In his art, Scott portrays psychedelic landscapes of intricacy and bewilderment that stimulate the mind’s eye.

The AVAM, American Visionary Arts Museum, is located in Baltimore, Maryland. AVAM’s all new exhibition champions the radiant and transformative power of hope and features work by 25 visionary artists, among them many “super survivors” of enormous personal traumas. Opens October 3, 2015.