(Jamaica, b. 1958)
"After locking up shop with gun in hand during the riots against the Chinese shopkeepers, my father got us all safe uptown. When we returned days later, all the shops on the street had been burned or looted but 6 Rose Lane was untouched and we were told by locals that our shop had been spared because we were good 'Chiney' people and because my father had done so much for the community…"
— Albert Chong
Albert Chong was born in 1958 in Kingston, Jamaica, into a family of Chinese-Jamaican merchants. At age 19, he migrated to New York City, where in 1981 he received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts. In 1991, he received his MFA from the University of California in San Diego; that same year, he joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where we currently lives and works.
Chong’s work is profoundly influenced by issues of race and identity, reflecting his own mixed heritage as a product of the Chinese diaspora in Jamaica as well as his intercultural African and Chinese family dynamics. His artistic production ranges from photography to installation, though he is best known for his photographic work.
Early works, such as My Jamaican Passport (1990) and The Sisters (1986), are photographic interventions that combine family photos with such natural elements as bones, dried flowers, shells, old letters, beads, and (in some cases) inscribed copper frames. In these works, Chong addresses his family history, his Jamaican nationality, and his ethnic roots in Africa and China, adding symbolic allusions to his spirituality. The works from this period own and challenge the “Chiney” label that was applied to his family in Jamaica, one that put Chong in constant physical danger in his native country during the 1970s.
Chong’s vast artistic output has been honored with such distinctions as a National Endowment of Arts fellowship in 1992 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1998. In 2006, he was part of the exhibition New Possessions at the Art Museum of the Americas, celebrating the 44th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence.