Machteld Appel, Dust jacket for 1 Cent Life with Portrait of Walasse Ting, 1964 © 2020 Estate of Walasse Ting / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

One Cent Life

Second-Floor Gallery
Time Period
On view through January 3, 2021

Walasse Ting (1929–2010) was a Chinese-American visual artist and poet. Born in Shanghai, he left China in 1946 and lived in the British colony of Hong Kong for six years before settling in Paris where he anglicized his Chinese name, tacking on “sse” in emulation of the famed painter Henri Matisse. In Paris, Ting became associated with the CoBrA group whose expressionist style of painting was inspired by the art of children. In 1957, bolstered by newfound success as a painter, he relocated to the United States and settled in New York City.

In 1961, while living in a one-room studio near Times Square, Ting wrote a series of sixty-one poems. These poems communicate the wide-eyed ambition of a recent immigrant. They are simultaneously spiritual and secular, jarring and joyful. His use of free form text references both the tone and metrical patterns of classical Chinese poetry and the rhythm of the American Beat prose, Jazz music, and the urban environment. Each page radiates with a breathless immediacy that exudes a sense of the vital dynamism of New York City in the early 1960s as Ting was experiencing it.

I wrote 61 poems in ’61 in a small black room like coffin, inside room only salami, whisky…photographs from Times Square …no cookbook, no telephone book, no check-book. Two short fingers, typing talking about World & Garbage, You & I, Egg & Earth. - Walasse Ting

On display in the Bechtler’s intimate second-floor gallery, this exhibition features a rare signed limited edition of the 1 Cent Life portfolio and eighteen lithographs from the Bechtler’s collection alongside a selection of Ting’s poetry. Related educational programs will explore themes of the immigrant experience and identity and engage with the regional poetry scene.
The resulting portfolio stemmed from Ting’s desire to capture the zeitgeist of a creative community caught between European abstraction and Pop Art, specifically those artists who, like Ting, bridged both the European and American avant-garde movements. Containing sixty-two lithographs by twenty-eight artists, reproductions of French, Japanese, and American advertisements, postage stamps, photographs, Chinese seals, and sixty-one letterpress poems by Ting set in multicolored inks, the portfolio was edited by Sam Francis and printed in Paris by Maurice Beudet with typography by George Girard. In 1964, the1 Cent Life portfolio was published and distributed by E.W. Kornfeld in Bern, Switzerland, where the Bechtler Family purchased their edition.

The idea was born from global experience, close contact with culture, pseudo-culture...existenial worries...and eastern wisdom. - E. W. Kornfeld, Publisher

Artists in the portfolio include: Pierre Alechinsky (Belgium, 1927–), Karel Appel (Netherlands, 1921–2006) Machteld Appel (Belgium, 1921–1970) Enrico Baj (Italy, 1924–2003), Alan Davie (Scotland, 1920–England, 2014), Sam Francis (United States, 1923–1994), Robert Indiana (United States, 1928-2018), Alfred Julio Jensen (Guatemala, 1903–1981), Asger Jorn (Denmark, 1914–1973), Roy Lichtenstein (United States, 1923–1997), Joan Mitchell (United States, 1925–1992), Kiki Kogelnik (Austria, 1935–1997), Claes Oldenburg (Sweden, 1929–), Mel Ramos (United States, 1935–2018), Robert Rauschenberg (United States, 1925–2008), Allan Kaprow (United States, 1927–2006), Reinhoud D’haese (Belgium, 1928–2007), Jim Dine (United States, 1935–), Jean-Paul Riopelle (Canada, 1923–2002), James Rosenquist (United States, 1933–2017), Antonio Saura (Spain, 1930–1998), Kimber Smith (United States, 1922–1981), K.R.H. Sonderborg (Denmark, 1923–2008), Walasse Ting (China, 1929–2010), Bram Van Velde (Netherlands 1895–1981), Öyvind Fahlström (1928–1976), Andy Warhol (United States, 1928–1987), and Tom Wesselmann (United States, 1931–2004).

1 Cent Life is curated by Anastasia James, Curator, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.