Exhibition

Hung Liu: Happy and Gay

Reception:

Press Release

In this exhibit, Liu revisits her childhood through a body of paintings based on patriotic stories in Chinese picture books, or xiaorenshu, that were available in book stands to be rented and read on premises. Like little graphic novellas, the picture books told stories of heroic figures or deeds, their official realism tempered by the individual styles of artists who, though in the service of the state, were trained in traditional Chinese art. Like Dick and Jane primers for American children during the 1950s, the images of Chinese workers, peasants, families, and soldiers building a better nation were tender lessons in socialization, at once charming and eerie.  Seen from an historical perspective, the propaganda angle strongly supplants the fable or entertainment factor.


Painted in Liu’s dissoluble style, however, and in a brighter, more graphic palette, the paintings become knowingly – but not merely – ironic. Grounded in childhood contact with the little picture books, Liu’s new paintings can be understood, in part, as homage to all the artists who lost their art to propaganda during China’s revolutionary epoch.   


Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948 and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. She immigrated to the US in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego where she received an MFA. Liu currently lives in Oakland and is a professor at Mills College. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and the National Endowment of the Arts Painting Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis among others. From March through June 2013, a retrospective of Hung Liu's work will be on view at the Oakland Museum of California, the show will then travel for two years to museums across the United States. 

In this exhibit, Liu revisits her childhood through a body of paintings based on patriotic stories in Chinese picture books, or xiaorenshu, that were available in book stands to be rented and read on premises. Like little graphic novellas, the picture books told stories of heroic figures or deeds, their official realism tempered by the individual styles of artists who, though in the service of the state, were trained in traditional Chinese art. Like Dick and Jane primers for American children during the 1950s, the images of Chinese workers, peasants, families, and soldiers building a better nation were tender lessons in socialization, at once charming and eerie.  Seen from an historical perspective, the propaganda angle strongly supplants the fable or entertainment factor.


Painted in Liu’s dissoluble style, however, and in a brighter, more graphic palette, the paintings become knowingly – but not merely – ironic. Grounded in childhood contact with the little picture books, Liu’s new paintings can be understood, in part, as homage to all the artists who lost their art to propaganda during China’s revolutionary epoch.   


Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948 and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. She immigrated to the US in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego where she received an MFA. Liu currently lives in Oakland and is a professor at Mills College. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and the National Endowment of the Arts Painting Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis among others. From March through June 2013, a retrospective of Hung Liu's work will be on view at the Oakland Museum of California, the show will then travel for two years to museums across the United States. 

In this exhibit, Liu revisits her childhood through a body of paintings based on patriotic stories in Chinese picture books, or xiaorenshu, that were available in book stands to be rented and read on premises. Like little graphic novellas, the picture books told stories of heroic figures or deeds, their official realism tempered by the individual styles of artists who, though in the service of the state, were trained in traditional Chinese art. Like Dick and Jane primers for American children during the 1950s, the images of Chinese workers, peasants, families, and soldiers building a better nation were tender lessons in socialization, at once charming and eerie.  Seen from an historical perspective, the propaganda angle strongly supplants the fable or entertainment factor.


Painted in Liu’s dissoluble style, however, and in a brighter, more graphic palette, the paintings become knowingly – but not merely – ironic. Grounded in childhood contact with the little picture books, Liu’s new paintings can be understood, in part, as homage to all the artists who lost their art to propaganda during China’s revolutionary epoch.   


Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948 and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. She immigrated to the US in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego where she received an MFA. Liu currently lives in Oakland and is a professor at Mills College. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and the National Endowment of the Arts Painting Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis among others. From March through June 2013, a retrospective of Hung Liu's work will be on view at the Oakland Museum of California, the show will then travel for two years to museums across the United States. 

back to top ^