Walasse Ting (1928-2010) was born Ding Xiongquan in the Chinese city of Wuxi, and spent much of his early life in Shanghai. By the time he moved to Paris in 1953, he had adopted the pseudonym Walasse Ting; the last letters in “Walasse” are an homage to the painter Henri Matisse. In Paris, he befriended artists including Pierre Alechinsky, Karel Appel, and Asger Jorn. Moving to New York in 1956, he encountered members of the Abstract Expressionist and Pop Art movements. These relationships were instrumental both to his artistic development overall, and to the eventual creation of what became his most ambitious and best-known project: the 1¢ Life portfolio.
This monumental undertaking began in New York, with poetry. Ting recalled, “I wrote 61 poems in ‘61 in a small black room like coffin, inside room only salami, whiskey, sexy photographs from Times Square.” Written in his own stylized English, Ting’s poems are alternately bawdy, contemplative, and yearning, infused with the grittiness of New York streets.
Ting described 1¢ Life as “a 9-pound baby with 27 painters as parents.” The artists who agreed to illustrate his poems represent a wildly divergent and international assortment of styles. Despite the unlikelihood of these juxtapositions, 1¢ Life feels uproarious and energetic, a free-wheeling glimpse of a moment in time, a network of allegiances. It also reflects the range of styles and influences evident in Ting’s own work, which drew on his roots in China as well as his sojourns in Paris, Amsterdam, and New York.
“Where can I find a book exciting as Times Square, color bright as neon light, hot as expresso. I face the big red pizza and green earthworms, and decide to make a book like hundred flower garden.”
(Walasse Ting, “Near 1¢ Life,” 1966)
Artists include, in order of appearance: Alan Davie, Alfred Jensen, Sam Francis, Walasse Ting, James Rosenquist, Pierre Alechinsky, Kimber Smith, Alfred Leslie, Antonio Saura, Kiki O.K., Asger Jorn, Robert Indiana, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Karel Appel, Tom Wesselmann, Bram van Velde, Joan Mitchell, Allan Kaprow, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, K.R.H. Sonderborg, Roy Lichtenstein, Öyvind Falström, Reinhoud, Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Mel Ramos, and Enrico Baj.
This exhibition was curated by Molly Kalkstein, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History and the Marti and Ed Slowik Curatorial Intern.
Images: Andy Warhol, Untitled from 1¢ Life Portfolio, 1964, lithograph | Alan Davie, Untitled from 1¢ Life Portfolio, 1964, lithograph | Roy Lichtenstein, Untitled from 1¢ Life Portfolio, 1964, lithograph | Robert Indiana, Untitled from 1¢ Life Portfolio, 1964, lithograph
University of Arizona Museum of Art & Archive of Visual Arts
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