[New York, NY] February 19, 2015 - The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) is pleased to announce a special exhibition this spring, Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong. The exhibition will focus on the life and work of artist Tyrus Wong—a celebrated painter, muralist, kite maker, lithographer, Hollywood sketch artist, calligrapher, ceramicist, and Disney Legend. At age 104, Wong is still a practicing artist today.


President of MOCA, Nancy Yao Maasbach shared, “Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong is part of a larger narrative exploring art and Chinese American heritage across geographical and cultural boundaries. Wong’s work continues to inspire and influence the leading animators and contemporary artists of today.”


This retrospective exhibition features Wong’s extensive body of work which includes his paintings, hand-painted ceramics, original greeting cards, works on paper, and latest kite creations. It was the ethereal beauty of Wong’s Eastern influenced paintings, his sense of color, richness, and imagination that caught Walt Disney’s eye and became the inspiration for the animated feature Bambi (1942). Wong’s singular vision and impressionistic art influenced the groundbreaking movie’s overall visual style and changed the way animation art was presented.


Arriving in the United States with his father in 1919 from the Toishan district in Guangdong, China, Wong was initially detained in Angel Island for three weeks because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. After his release, Wong and his father settled in Sacramento, later moving to Los Angeles’s Chinatown.


“Wong’s extraordinary stories need to be told, alongside decades of his art work. We are delighted to work with Tyrus, his daughter Kim Wong, and Michael Labrie at The Walt Disney Family Museum on debuting Tyrus’ work in New York,” states Herb Tam, director of exhibitions at MOCA.


Wong was one of the bohemian artists whose creativity and drive helped shape the cultural, artistic life of Los Angeles during the 1930s and 40s. He carved out a creative career working as a Depression-era muralist, California watercolorist, and film production illustrator. Wong worked at the Warner Bros. studio from 1942 to 1968, creating concept images for many films including Rebel Without a Cause [1955] and The Wild Bunch [1969], to name a few. These artworks conjured stunning environments, in many cases resembling beautifully executed architectural renderings.


In 2001, Wong was named a Disney Legend. Wong has been inducted into the World Kite Museum and Hall of Fame for his amazing creations, which include hundred-foot long centipedes, butterflies, and schools of delicately painted goldfish. These handmade kites inspired by the complex art of Chinese kite making will be a central exhibition showcase.


During the run of the exhibition, MOCA will offer a line-up of events, public programs, tours, and educational workshops. Please check back on the Museum’s website for upcoming exhibition-related programs. For press images, please email MOCAPRESS.


Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong is organized by The Walt Disney Family Museum, San Francisco, CA.


Tyrus Wong, Readers Digest cover art, Feb 1970; courtesy Tyrus Wong Family


This exhibition and related programs are made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York Legislature. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by The Starr Foundation and Anla Cheng & Mark Kingdon. In-kind shipping has been provided by DHL.

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About Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA)

MOCA’s mission is to celebrate the living history of the Chinese experience in America, to inspire our diverse communities to contribute to America’s evolving cultural narrative and civil society, and to empower and bridge our communities across generations, ethnicities and geography through our dynamic stories.


Monday – Closed
Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday – 11am-6pm
Thursday – 11am-9pm
MOCA First Free Thursdays: Free gallery admission on the first Thursday of each month is made possible through the generosity of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and J.T. Tai & Co Foundation.


General Admission: $10/ MOCA Members: Free
Seniors (65+ with ID) and Students (w/school ID): $5
Children under 12 in groups less than 10: Free