Seong Moy

Passed away on June 9, 2013
Obituary of Seong Moy
Obituary for Seong Moy Submitted by Adrienne Moy, Daughter Seong Moy, 92; Artist and Educator NEW YORK - Seong Moy, a prolific artist and influential educator whose career spanned more than 70 years, died on June 9 at his home in New York. He was 92. Although Mr. Moy began as an accomplished painter in the 1940s, his reputation today rests chiefly upon his printmaking. He is considered an innovator of technique and vision in his graphic work, developed over nearly five decades. Born in Canton, China in 1921, Mr. Moy immigrated to the United States in 1931 at the age of ten. He joined other members of his family who had settled in St. Paul, Minnesota where, at the height of the Depression, he began his art studies as a teenager at the WPA Federal Art Project. He continued his art education at the St. Paul School of Art under Cameron Booth, and the WPA Graphic Workshop at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN. Instructors quickly recognized his talent and enabled him to take classes while maintaining a job. In 1941, Mr. Moy won a scholarship to attend the Art Students League in New York City where he studied painting under Vaclav Vytacil and printmaking with Will Barnet. Another scholarship made it possible for Mr. Moy to study at the Hans Hofmann School of Art. During this time, Mr. Moy also first spent time in Provincetown, MA. Here he became part of the community of artists that flourished and became one of the premier art colonies in the United States. According to Dominic J. Iacono, Director of the SUArt Galleries at Syracuse University, in The Prints of Seong Moy, “These experiences provided Moy with his first direct contact with artists working in a ‘modernist’ style, one that he refined over the next several decades.” In 1941, Mr. Moy enlisted in the Air Force and put his art education on hold. He served in the 14th Air Force, the “Flying Tigers,” in the China-India-Burma Theater where he worked as an aerial reconnaissance photographer in China and Southeast Asia. After the war, Mr. Moy came back to New York with his new wife, Sui Yung. He returned to the Art Students League on the G.I. Bill and re-established his relationship with Cameron Booth, who was now teaching in New York. Along with Hofmann, Booth was considered one of the few major teachers of the modernist approach to art. In a 1991 commentary by artist Tony Vevers in Seong Moy: Color Prints, Mr. Moy was remembered by the sculptor Eleni and painter Nadine Valenti as “extremely kind and generous,” “…so active, so full of life and fun – and he was a wonderful cook.” Although Mr. Moy was primarily a painter during the post-wars years, he began making prints when he received a fellowship to work at Stanley William Hayter’s graphic art workshop, Atelier 17, which had moved to New York in 1940 after its founding in Paris in 1927. The workshop was a center for the development of new techniques and attitudes towards printmaking. It was home to many avant-garde artists including Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Boris Margo, and Willem de Kooning, some of whom also shared a Provincetown connection. “The excitement and heady atmosphere of working at close quarters with some of the most innovative artists of the 20th century was not lost on Seong Moy. But he also realized that this environment was not for beginners…The Atelier encouraged experimentation with older art forms that inspired Moy to re-interpret the gestural aspects of Chinese image making, especially calligraphy, and create a new and personal art form. Additionally, as a painter, Moy had developed a colorful palette and believed this would make his prints stand apart from graphic work by his contemporaries,” according to Iacono. During his time at the Atelier, Mr. Moy formed an association with a generation of young printmakers, many of whom later became teachers or printers at important studios. Mr. Moy became known for an ”aggressive approach to mark making his images, his willingness to push the boundaries of printmaking with color, and an open attitude towards using media,” writes Iacono. In 1947, according to James Watrous in A Century of American Printmaking 1880-1980, “The Jacques Seligmann Galleries presented The Printmakers, a group of younger artists working in the modern vein whose leader is Seong Moy, a promising creator of color woodcuts.” His work was singled out by the New York Times and the Art Digest in their reviews of the show. “Moy’s techniques of printmaking represent a considerable advance,” according to Francis Harvey in a 1954 article written for Print: The Magazine for the Graphic Arts. By using innovative techniques such as transferring designs painted on transparent celluloid to woodblocks, Mr. Moy was able to retain the immediacy of his image making and the painterly quality that made his work so recognizable. In his later works, Mr. Moy continued his inventive use of materials and techniques, incorporating the collage medium, and experimenting with non-traditional, common materials. He pioneered a technique of printmaking using cardboard known as color relief printing. In the 1950s, Mr. Moy began a career as an educator. He taught for nearly forty years at colleges, universities, and institutions including Cooper Union, Pratt Graphic Arts Center, Columbia University, New York University, Smith College, Vassar College, and his own art school that he founded in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He served as Professor of Art at City College of New York from 1970 to 1989, and as Instructor at the Art Students League where he taught for more than twenty years. “Many artists list their associations with Moy as a proud mark in their curricula vitae. His influence as a teacher was profound and present day students are discovering his work and the innovative approach he brought to printmaking,” writes Iacono. Since the 1950s, Mr. Moy’s work has been exhibited in more than 150 one-man shows, and exhibitions in the United States, Europe and Asia. He has won numerous awards during his long career as an artist, and his work is represented in some of the most important museum collections in the United States. His work has also been acquired by numerous international museums, and corporate and private collections. The eminent critic Emily Genauer wrote of Mr. Moy’s art, “It is a language, seemingly abstract, that through its mélange of bright colors and fragmentary shapes as vivid as banners whipping in the wind, communicates concretely what the artist saw and felt… His own work always stems from events and experiences, deriving from past and present, and melting into a unified image.” Mr. Moy’s life was a product of his modest beginnings, fortuitous opportunities, and his lifelong passion for learning and self expression. He maintained a dynamic active painting, printmaking and teaching schedule until the late 1980s. After recovering from a stroke, Mr. Moy enjoyed travelling with his family and spending summers in Provincetown. He returned to a newly developing China in 2008, at the age of 85, accompanying his wife, daughters and grandchildren to the rural villages where he and his wife were born in the 1920s. He was an inspiration to his family and many who knew him in his ninety two years. Mr. Moy is survived by his wife of sixty six years, Sui Yung, his daughters, Jacqueline and Adrienne, and two grandchildren, Eamon and Fiona.

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