Artist vs. Designer In Mike Quon Retrospective

February 7, 2019
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The extensive work of Fair Haven artist Mike Quon is on display at Monmouth University’s Rechnitz Hall’s DiMattio Gallery now through March 15.
Photo by Allen Granick

By Mary Ann Bourbeau

WEST LONG BRANCH – Mike Quon considers himself fortunate to have had two successful careers – one as an artist and the other as a graphic designer.

The two have now come together with a retrospective of Quon’s career entitled, “Mike Quon: The Art of a Designer.” The show, which will be held at Rechnitz Hall’s DiMattio Gallery at Monmouth University, runs through March 15, with an artist lecture and reception Friday, Feb. 8.

“Part of being an artist is wanting to share it,” said Quon. “As a designer I’ve always liked the idea of being an artist, and as an artist I’ve always liked the idea of being a designer. I’ve managed to juggle two different careers and use both sides of my brain.”

Quon’s bold and colorful illustrations have been seen close to home and around the world. He has designed graphics for the Little Silver Library, Two River Theater, the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival and FilmOneFest. He has also created hundreds of logos, among them the Los Angeles Olympics, AT&T, World Cup Soccer, American Express and Hasbro Toys.

“I like to think I’m a good listener,” he said. “That’s how I find out what a client wants to accomplish. I need to know what works for him as opposed to what I want to do because after I leave, he has to look at it every day.”

Strangely enough, Quon didn’t set out to be an artist.

“My father wanted me to be a doctor or a dentist,” he said. “After arriving at UCLA, I was told in no uncertain terms that I did not belong in the Nobel Prize-winning pre-med program. I felt free.”

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His parents were supportive when he decided to make the career switch.

“One of my brothers became a dentist and one is a pharmacist, so my parents got their medical fix,” he said.

Quon decided to follow in the footsteps of his father, Milton. Now 105 and still creating art, Milton was an animator for Disney, working on original movie classics such as “Dumbo” and “Fantasia.” But Quon’s style is different than his dad’s. It’s more laid-back, colorful and playful – characteristics he credits to his 1950s California upbringing.

Quon began his career working as an art director and designer. In the 1970s, he moved to New York City and freelanced with ad agencies and publishing companies. He also taught at Parsons School of Art and Design, School of Visual Arts and the Fashion Institute of Technology. He is looking forward to the artist lecture Feb. 8, where he can talk to students and other guests about his diverse career.

“The opportunity to teach or inspire the kids about how to manage a career in art is something I look forward to,” said Quon. “A combination of hard work, talent and an interest in the subject will get them where they want to go.”

At UCLA, Quon studied with Ed Ruscha and Richard Diebenkorn and was greatly influenced by the pop art styles of Andy Warhol and David Hockney. He particularly enjoys painting architecture, cityscapes, local landmarks and everyday objects. Quon’s pieces can be found in museums, private collections and in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress and the New York Historical Society.

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Quon lives in Fair Haven with his wife, Katharine McAuley, whose work supports affordable housing. They met 23 years ago on a New York City subway platform and soon started collaborating on projects.

“She has a very good design eye,” said Quon.

They now work together on the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation project in Red Bank to save the historic home from demolition and turn it into a cultural center.

“Mike has always helped me out on projects,” said McAuley. “He did a drawing of the house that was used by the group. He does a lot of pro bono work and supports our fundraisers.” The show at Monmouth University will include Quon’s graphic designs, drawings, works on paper and acrylic paintings. A selection of his corporate logos will be featured, along with personal journals and sketchbooks from his travels around the world.

“To have an entire 2,000-square-foot gallery devoted to my work is very gratifying,” he said. “It’s a big moment for me.”

“Mike Quon: The Art of a Designer” can be viewed Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The artist lecture will take place from 6 to 7 p.m. Feb. 8 in Wilson Auditorium, followed by the reception from 7 to 9 p.m. in the DiMattio Gallery, located in Rechnitz Hall, 400 Cedar Ave., West Long Branch. For more information, visit monmouth.edu/mca/event/mike-quon.

Arts and entertainment reporter Mary Ann Bourbeau can be reached at mbourbeau@tworivertimes.com.

This article was first published in the Feb.7-14, 2019 print edition of The Two River Times.

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