Modern & Contemporary Art

Martin Wong: IMU UR2

NEW YORK, NY -- One of two works by Martin Wong featured in Doyle's September 17 Important Paintings auction, IMU UR2 is an important prototypical painting from Martin’s time in Eugene, CA in the mid-1970s, just before his arrival to New York. The canvas may represent the first instance in which “IMU UR2” was used by Martin. The phrase would pop up again throughout Martin’s work and life, even appearing on his artist stamps and business cards. He developed the "IMU UR2" phrase during his time in Eureka, likewise the term “Human Instamatic,” and both would follow Martin throughout his life, employed by Martin as a sort of credo or moniker.

Set within a Valentine heart, two Calaveras embrace. Pages from Martin’s sketchbook of this same era give insight into the artist’s process, playing with the skeletal figures, conceiving the arrangement. The sketchbook and this framework would be an archetype for many works to come.

A larger work, also entitled IMU UR2, depicts two calaveras embracing on a checkered background, both wearing top hats emblazoned with Martin’s famed phrase. This 1978 work was almost certainly created during this same time period while in Eureka, and shares the ruddy brown sepia tones of both works featured in the September 16 auction – as do many of Martin’s works of this period. Martin was intrigued by the Mexican traditional Day of the Dead, and the artist enclave at Chirimoya in Eureka would celebrate the holiday each year. Additionally, we see these embracing figures repeat again later in several of Martin’s best-known works, the kissing firemen in both Big Heat from 1988 and, again surrounded by a Valentine heart, Sanja Cake from 1991. In 2012, artist Danh Vo would win a Hugo Boss prize for his exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, a tribute to the life and work of Martin Wong, in which he reinstalled an assortment of objects from Martin’s collection. The exhibition as well as the accompanying book entitled: IMU UR2.
“Some places it will always be Eureka, and in Eureka it will always be Valentine’s day.” -- Martin Wong

Important Paintings

Featured in the Important Paintings auction on September 17, 2020 are two works by Martin Wong.

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Portrait of specialist Angelo Madrigale
SVP/Director of Paintings / Director of Contemporary Art
Modern & Contemporary Art
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