Hosting a compelling dialogue in conjunction with its ongoing Conversations with Contemporary Artists series, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum welcomed artist Danh Vo on Tuesday night to discuss his curatorial work for a new exhibition "The Hugo Boss Prize 2012: Danh Vo I M U U R 2", commemorating works both created and collected by the late Martin Wong. Vo was joined by Peter Broda, co-founder of the Museum of American Graffiti, and moderator and artfully conversant Julie Ault.
Wong, who was largely supportive of and involved in New York's downtown art and graffiti movement during the 1980s and '90s, passed away of an AIDS-related illness in 1999. His new exhibit initiates a dialogue both pragmatic and worldly, engaging viewers in a sort of cultural mindfulness that ranges from social injustices to the importance of subcultures.
The conversation that took place on Tuesday evening was as much a celebration of Wong's achievements as it was a discussion of his exhibit. A particularly pertinent topic raised by Ault addressed the dialogues that Wong's art continue to facilitate between Wong and Vo, Wong and the counter-cultures represented in his collection, as well as the dialogue between Wong and the viewer herself. At what point does artifact become art, inquired Ault, and how is this reflected in the ongoing acquisition of Wong's collection?
Vo worked closely with Wong's mother, Florence Wong Fie - the overseer of his lifelong collection of art and objects after his passing - to carefully curate a selection of Wong's most prized possessions, an assortment of ceramics, calligraphy, and antiques. When reflecting on his creative process, Vo mused, "I didn't conceive it as an idea. I always felt that it was a necessity."
The exhibition itself reflects Wong's indisputable cross-continental curiosity, displaying antiques, souvenirs, intermixed with a number of Wong's own works. The exhibition represents an ongoing dialogue between the creative processes of Wong and Vo, engaging viewers in a nearly overwhelming display of cross-cultural objects and imagery that number in the thousands. "It was a process of learning by doing," said Vo of his experience in curating the exhibit. "This is just the beginning I guess."