In an installation at once humorous and grave, Artist Adrian Wong brings his ongoing engagement with the clown community to The Arts Club of Chicago’s garden. Large-scale, egg-shaped sculptures that feature clown facial designs will populate the space. These works derive from Wong’s in-depth conversations with practitioners of the clowning arts, and his recognition of the complex identities that these performers occupy.
The origin of this research was a chance encounter with John “Jay-Jay the Clown” Joseph, during the installation of Wong’s 2019 exhibition, Three-Legged Dog, at 4th Ward Project Space in Hyde Park. (Mr. Joseph was hired to provide his services as a professional children’s birthday entertainer.) At the time of their meeting, Joseph was the sitting president of the Midwest Clown Association (2018-2019) and would subsequently be elected for a term as president of the International Shrine Clown Association (2019-2020).
Through Jay-Jay, Wong was introduced to the clown community and was immediately struck by the intersectional identities of many of its participating members. For example, certain clown unions require co-membership in the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AAONMS), colloquially known as the Shriners. Many are also military veterans; work in public service; and self-report that their dedication to the art of clowning is a by-product of trauma experienced earlier in their lives. He also discovered that contemporary clowning has a deep relationship to counterculture and radical movements—for example the protest activities of the Situationists, the Yippies, the Insane Clown Posse / Juggalos—and subsequently, Wong has expanded his conversations to other noted clowns such as L.M. Bogad, Hilary Ramsden, and Zoe Young (founding members of the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army—C.I.R.C.A.).
The present project seeks to engage this community for the purpose of examining the craft of clowning as a means of healing, self-preservation, and reinvention. The title, Oogenesis, describes the biological process of the development of life via an ovum—but metaphorically references the use of eggs, symbols of re-birth, as a traditional method to trademark clowns’ unique facial designs.
Adrian Wong was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1980. Originally trained in psychology (MA, Stanford 2003), he began making and exhibiting work in San Francisco while concurrently conducting research in developmental linguistics. He continued his post-graduate studies in sculpture (MFA, Yale 2005). Wong relocated his studio to Hong Kong in 2005, but recently returned to Chicago, where he is an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been exhibited at The Drawing Center (New York), Kuandu Museum (Taipei), Kunsthalle Wien, Kunstmuseum Bern, Kunstverein (Hamburg), Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul), Palazzo Reale (Milan), Saatchi Gallery (London), and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art (Rotterdam)—and can be found in public and private collections worldwide, including the 21c Collection (Chicago), DSL Foundation Collection (Paris), K11 Art Foundation (Shanghai), Kadist Foundation (San Francisco), M+ Museum (Hong Kong), Sifang Museum (Nanjing), and Uli Sigg Collection (Lucerne).