Fall 2017/Winter-Spring 2018
Hung Liu Studio Newsletter

Stranger in a  Strange  Land, Hung Liu in Print, Zoetrope: All Story, Transformation , Migrant Mother and Her Children, Daughters of China, Provoking Change, the BIG 70!, and more ...

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Welcome to the Winter-Spring edition of the Hung Liu Studio Newsletter (#19). Please enjoy looking through it! The Summer newsletter will come in September. 

Stranger in a Strange Land:  Art of California
Works by Hung Liu, Charles Wong, and Martin Wong
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
San Francisco, CA
March 25 - September, 2018

In 1968, under Mao Tse-Tung's sweeping "Down to the Countryside Movement," twenty-year-old Hung Liu was resettled in rural China for proletariat reeducation. Far from the urban comforts of Beijing, she labored in the fields, toiling alongside other "sent-down youth" for the creation of a Communist utopia. Upon her return to the capital in 1972, she enrolled in university as an art student - but chafing under the state's exclusive demands for propaganda, she escaped each day to Beijing's desolate outskirts. There, in peace, she painted the landscapes of her self-named "Secret Freedom" series, delighting in these humble studies of color, composition, and form. But her modest subjects, such as a toilet rather than a rosy-cheeked Mao, incited questions from her roommate: Did they "sing great songs for the Party"? Why was she painting them? What was her political status? Liu ignored this surveillance and made more than five hundred works, keeping faith, year after year, in the joy and fierce necessity of free expression. 

Nancy Lim
Assistant Curator of Painting and Sculpture

My Secret Freedom #25, oil on canvas, 1972-75

My Secret Freedom #15, oil on canvas, 1972-75

My Secret Freedom #14, oil on canvas, 1972-75

My Secret Freedom #13, oil on canvas, 1972-75

My Secret Freedom #10, oil on canvas, 1972-75
My Secret Freedom #22,  gauche  on paper, 1972-75

My Secret Freedom #29, & #32, oil on canvas, 1972-75

SFMOMA installation, 2nd floor

With Gary Garrels, Nancy Lim, & Walter Maciel

Who it's for ...


Hung Liu in Print
National Museum of Women in the Arts
Washington, DC
January 19  - July 8, 2018

"Hung Liu In Print" invites viewers to explore the relationship between the artist's multi-layered paintings and the palpable, physical qualities of her works on paper. To make her prints, Liu uses an array of printing and collage techniques, developing highly textured surfaces, veils of color, and screens of drip marks that transform the figures in each composition. Describing printmaking as "poetry," she emphasizes the spontaneity of the layering process, which allows each image to build organically with each successive layer.  Best known as a painter, Liu ably translates the "weeping realism" that characterizes her canvases into the medium of prints. This focus exhibition highlights selected prints from the collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts as well as the artist's related tapestry designs.

"Hung Liu In Print", presented in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, is organized by the museum and generously supported by its members.


Hung Liu: All Over the Map
Sanchez Art Center
Pacifica, CA
February 23 - March 25, 2018

Curated by Phil Linhares

For years artist Jerry Barrish, the volunteer director of the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, had been inviting Hung to show there. Finally, an idea emerged that would not conflict with her many other obligations, and that was to gather and exhibit an array of mixed-media resin pieces, made at Trillium Graphics, and exhibit them separately from Hung's oil paintings. Invented as a technique for Hung by Master Printer David Salgado, making such work involves, to quote Leah Garchik, combining "fragments of paintings with photos and historical materials, and [embedding] them in layers of translucent material (resin), on top of which she paints." Liu and Salgado call them "Bastard Paintings," or Za Zhong, since they are the illegitimate and unwanted bastard children of an affair between painting and printmaking. The show, the audience, and the warm feeling were worth the multi-year wait. (Thanks Jerry!)


 Jerry Barrish, Hung, David Salgado

With Jim Edwards (who gave Hung one of her first shows in San Antonio, Texas) & Phil Linhares

____________________ ___________________

Station Museum of Contemporary Art
Houston, TX
February 3 - April 22, 2018

In(di)visible is an exhibition examining immigration, the residual effects of war, and the implications of assimilation, integration, and invisibility for Asian Americans. Reinforced through systematic subjugation and discrimination, the myth of the 'model minority' obscures the lived experiences of people perceived as Asian in America and is often used as a wedge between them and other marginalized groups. A pervasive disconnect exists between Hollywood depictions of Asian people in America and the breadth and variety of the people inhabiting those realities. The artists in this exhibition (besides Hung, Mel Chin, Pay Houa Her, Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung, Miao Jiaxin, Laurel Nakadate, Zeus Paredes, Judy Shintani, Lien Troung, Dan S. Wang, Hong-An Truong, and Huong Ngo) use their experiences to bring visibility and add nuance to the cultural understanding of Asians in America.

Branches: The Wong Family Portraits, 1988, charcoal & oil on canvas, three panels, fortune cookies

Mel Chin, poster for film production of "Wilder West," 2018

Mel Chin & Hung Liu

With Lien Troung, artist and Mills College Alumna

With Jeff's college roommate and virtuoso violist James Dunham, Professor at Rice University


Hung Liu: Transformation
An Installation at the Loveland Art Museum
Loveland, CO
December 8, 2017 - February 18, 2018

The exhibition Hung Liu: Transformation is the first major Colorado exhibition of the artwork of Hung Liu - one of the most prominent Chinese painters working in the United States today. Featuring 15 large-scale paintings, as well as a rarely seen, room-size installation, the exhibition celebrates the persistent theme in Hung Liu's artwork of movement and migration, at both literal and metaphoric levels. This body of work emphasizes a symbiotic, fluid relationship with the past and a deeply poignant understanding of the persistence of time. The exhibition explores the evolution of Liu's artistic practice and investigates the complex interactions between individual memory and history. Included in the exhibition are two recent paintings from a 2016 series that were the result of Liu's long affiliation with and affection for the photographs of Dorothea Lange and other WPA photograp

Cookie Queen, 1994, oil on shaped canvas, with fortune cookies

Abacus, oil on canvas, 1988

With Jiao Tianlong, Joseph de Heer Curator of Asian Art, Asian Art Department, Denver Art Museum

With Eric Roberts, exhibition preparator and Nicholas Felicich, Hung Liu Studio assistant



Migrant Mother and Her Children

Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art and Byron Cohen Gallery
Kansas City, MO
November 3, 2017 - January 20, 2018

Hung Liu is primarily known as a painter of Chinese subjects, typically from the 19th and 20th centuries, whose paintings are based on historical Chinese photographs. Given the historical, often tragic subject matter she represents, her style is a kind of weeping realism. Liu's newest paintings, however, are based upon the Dustbowl and Depression era photographs of American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange, whom Liu has long admired.

Shifting focus from Chinese to American subjects may seem a surprise to Liu's audience, at first. But by training her attention on the displaced individuals and wandering families of the American Dustbowl, Liu finds a landscape of overarching struggle and underlying humanity that for her is familiar terrain, having been raised in China during an era (Mao's) of epic revolution, tumult, and displacement. The 1930s Oakies and Bindle-stiff's wandering like ghosts through Liu's new paintings are American peasants on their way to California, the promised land.

In her paintings for Sherry Leedy Contemporary Art and Byron Cohen, Liu - who is known for a fluid style in which drips and washes of linseed oil dissolve the photo-bas ed images the way time erodes memory - has developed a kind of topographic realism in which the paint coagulates around a webbing of colored lines, together enmeshed in a rich surface - like Chinese cloisonné, that belies the poverty of h er subjects. In this, the new paintings are more factually woven to Lange's photographs while also releasing the energy of color like a radiant of hope from beneath the grey-tones of history.

The paradoxical result has been a softening of the ground and a hardening - a kind of mapping - of the figures, whose edges and outlines and details are sharpened by the colorful lines and squiggles that both stiffen and liberate them. In short, looking hard at Lange's photographs has changed Liu's painting, allowing her empathic sense of touch, and her deeply intuitive knowledge of color as a liberating force, to make contact with the stories underlying their surfaces - stories which, whether Chinese or American, continue emerging like hope for all who still seek a place in history.

With Sherry Leedy of Sherry Leedy Gallery, Kansas City

With Rachael & Kanon Cozad

Eileen Cohen & Toma Wolfe

A party for women at Toma's house.

At the home of collectors Bill and Christy Gautreaux

At the home of collector Michael Klein



Daughters of China
Kala Art Institute
Berkeley, CA
October 19, 2017 - January 20, 2018

Kala Art Institute is proud to present Daughters of China, a solo exhibition of acclaimed Bay Area painter Hung Liu's work. Curated by Peter Selz and Sue Kubly, the exhibition features a series of Hung's paintings based on a well-known propaganda film Daughters of China from 1949 that Liu remembers seeing as a child. The film depicts an actual 1938 event in which eight female soldiers fighting the Japanese staged a rear-guard action that allowed the Chinese army to escape. Cut off with their backs against a river, they were coaxed to surrender when the Japanese realized they were women. Rather than capitulate, the eight young soldiers-ranging in age from thirteen to twenty-eight-carried their dying and wounded into the river and drowned. Arise Ye Wretched of the Earth, (2008) shows the women as they struggle in the river. Indeed, with its drips and washes, the painting seems to be drowning its own subjects.

With Archana Horster, Mildred Howard, & Mayumi Hamanaka

KALA panel discussion with Larry Rinder, Peter Selz, the artist, and Jeff Kelley

Giving Peter Selz, 99, a surprise portrait of himself

Peter's portrait

With Carol Laedwig, Moira Roth, and Sue Heinemann

With Quinn Delany & her painting

With Larry Rinder, Director of BAMPFA


Provoking Change: A Visual Arts Alumni Exhibition
University Art Gallery, UC San Diego
San Diego, CA
October 12-December 7, 2017

Exploring a segment of the unique early history of the Visual Arts Department,  Provoking Change  celebrates an extraordinary roster of artists who came to study in San Diego in the early 1970s through the 1990s. Diverse in their approaches, UC San Diego artists made art that introduced multi-cultural voices, pointed out women's underrepresentation in the arts, and revealed the pressing histories of immigration, class, and racism. By broadening art-making practices through daring experimentation and engagement with the highly-contested political and social subjects of the day, these artists helped transform and expand contemporary art.
Works on view in  Provoking Change include painting, sculpture, photography, photomontage, film and video, and text-and-image installations. Among them, Hung Liu's  Five Star Red Flag and  German Shepherd are a significant contribution to the revival of traditions of avant-garde painting in China. After arriving to UC San Diego, Liu mastered layered brushstrokes and drippy appearance of paint in her work that serve as a visual metaphor for the loss of historical memory. 
The work of many Visual Arts alumni aligns well with the spirit of Allan Kaprow's investigation of art disappearing into life. The artworks on display can delight the senses, evoke emotions, arouse curiosity, and provoke debate about the nature and boundaries of art and art media. In all, the exhibition spotlights those artists who have succeeded in giving substance to their creative visions and whose work often transgressed the conventional media boundaries to connect object making with play, performance, and activism. The exhibition will be accompanied by film screenings and lecture-conversations with visiting alumni and will highlight the depth and breadth of the socially engaged and politically conscious art of the Visual Arts alumni at UC San Diego. 
Tatiana Sizonenko,  PhD
Art History, Theory, Criticism
Department of Visual Arts
University of California, San Diego

At the University Art Gallery, UCSD, 2017

Five Star Red Flag, 1995, oil on canvas, diptych

German Sheppard, oil on canvas, 1998

With Professor Sheldon Nodleman at UCSD
With gallery director Tatiana Sizonenko 
& Visual Arts Chair Jack Greenstein

We met at UCSD in 1984...

Zoetrope Cafe, San Francisco
March 27, 2018

Hung was invited to design - using her own art - an issue of Zoetrope: All Story, Francis Ford Coppola's quarterly literary magazine. Taking a cue from the stories themselves, especially the process of writing, shaping and extending a narrative, Liu decided to publish images of her most recent paintings - which are based on the documentary photographs of Dorothea Lange - showing different stages in their completion. Many of the images are thus presented as before-and-after sequences. The artist wanted to "reopen paintings that were already complete, to sort of tell their stories, and also see their evolutions fixed on a page, like a developing photograph," as she writes in her introduction, "Notes on Design." 

To celebrate the issue, the magazine held a gathering at the Zoetrope Cafe in San Francisco. 


With Marna Clark and Cissie Swig

With Manjula Martin, Zoetrope Magazine Editor

With Nicole Fein, artist & Mills College Alumna

Manjula Martin & Michael Ray of Zoetrope Magazine

With Ed Hardy and Francesca Passalacqua

With Cissie Swig

Thanks Zoetrope!

Hung Liu Day!
Berkeley City Hall
December 19, 2017

TL/BR: With Kathryn Reasoner, Marcia Tanner, Cherrie Newell, & Jan Holmgren

Ya Gotta Love Berkeley!

Happy 70th Birthday Party!

@ the Oakland Museum of California
February 17, 2018

Top Left to Bottom Right: With Moira Roth, Cissie Swig, Nicole Fein, Cissie & Gail Severn, with Yvonne Nevens, Vernita Mason, Coryl Crane, Bram Kaprow

Dick & Ann Grace

From top left to bottom right: With Steuart Pittman and Robb Putnam, with Stephanie Hanor & Jeremy, with Don & Era Fansworth, Barrister Jim McManus, Jarilyn, Vernita, & John Mason, Sayre Batton & Maja.

Wanxin Zhang, Renee Bott, Diane Ding, Ling Chen Kelley, Hung, Lin Wei, Greg Collins

Cissie & Maryellen Herringer

With Yulia Pinkusevich, Daxue & Xie Xiaoze, Leah Garchik, Rachelle Riechert

Top - Bottom: Birthday Girl w/ candle, Don Farnsworth doing Stand-Up, John,
Hung, & Mildred Howard

The Bennett Boys

With a sculpture by John Mason

Special thanks to Lori Fogarty, Director, Oakland Museum of California, for welcoming us all!

Hung Liu is welcomed into what Doug Hall called "the dignified age of 70 ..."

The Big Picture
Conversation at the Pacific Asia Museum, USC, Pasadena
University of Southern California
March 3, 2018

A conversation examining the role of Murals in Chinese and Mexican art with Hung Liu, Latino-American muralist Jose Ramirez, and Chinese curator Zheng Shengtian

Hung Liu,  Music of the Great Earth , 1981, (destroyed) Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing

Mural by Zheng Shengtian temporarily installed at the Asia Pacific Museum, USC, Pasadena 

With Director Christina Yu Yu


Women Who Transformed Art in the West
A Conversation at the Minnesota Street Project
San Francisco, CA 
February 24, 2018

S peaking about women artists in the west with Claudia Schmuckli (Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco), Kathe Kollwitz (New York Guerilla Girl), and Renny Pritikin (Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco)


Studio (peek)


San Francisco Chronicle
"Hung Liu, who's had shows all over the country and spoke at the Minnesota Street Project on Saturday, about 'Women Who Transformed Art in the West,' had been the center of attention the night before at the opening of 'All Over the Map,' a show at the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica. In these works, curated by Phil Linhares and created with David Salgado at Trillium Press, the artist combines fragments of paintings with photos and historical materials, and embeds them in layers of translucent material, on top of which she paints. It's a complex art form, the results seeming old and new at once." - Leah Garchik
Square Cylinder 
"As the public reckons with the necessity of supporting and defending women against male aggression, there is a dizzying prescience in these emotionally gripping images of armed women pushed to the very limits of their endurance." - Nick Stone

"It would be hard to imagine an art exhibition more relevant to current events, or one more visually and emotionally stirring, than Daughters of China, the stunning show of monumental oil paintings by East Bay-based artist Hung Liu." -Marcia Tanner

"Liu chose the cookies to represent the gold that drew the immigrants to the West Coast. 'That is also a metaphor of coming to America to seek your fortune, but there is a twist and it's important to know. The twist is the Chinese did not invent fortune cookies,' Kelley said." - Michelle Vendegna
Square Cylinder 
"Had Liu stuck to her early training in Socialist Realist and not gotten an American education that permitted and encouraged free expression, the paintings we see here would not, stylistically speaking, have been possible. That the best of them significantly departs from their sources lends double meaning to the titled Promised Land, alluding to both the better life sought by the migrants Lange pictured, and to the stories career Liu achieved after arriving on these shores in 1984 with $20 and a suitcase" - David Roth
San Francisco Chronicle
"The Lange photographs have become so well-known that the people in Liu's paintings seem like old friends, their familiar features recaptured in new portraits and images. It's as though the photographer and her work have been reborn. The Oakland Museum has the Lange archives, and Liu has spent much time there immersed in that work, 'and I talk with her all the time'." - Leah Garchik
San Francisco Chronicle
"It's an artistic risk to take a famous Dorothea Lange picture from the Great Depression and turn it into an oil on canvas. But in the translation, Jung Liu is able to bring unique empathy to Lange's Dust Bowl images, having spent four years working the fields during the Cultural Revolution in People's Republic of China" - Sam Whiting
Huffington Post
"Although some may interpret this work's focus on the American Dust Bowl migration a departure from previous work because the subjects are not Chinese, Liu insists that this new work is not a pivot, but a natural extension of her previous work." - Amy Pleasant
Fresno Bee
"One of the great things about her new Fresno exhibition is the way you can flit back and forth between her earlier days as a student - absorbing the furtive freshness and raw vitality of a rural Beijing - with some of her much more politically pointed works. One of the biggest and most impressive, titled "Modern Time," is based on a banal photograph of a woman daydreaming in a conference room. On the wall behind her are four photographs that used to be found on the walls of schools and public buildings across China: the "four white guys" who helped birth the communist ideology. But Liu offers a subversive twist. She depicts Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin in the style of Van Gogh, giving a post-Impressionist hint of snark to the scene." - Donald Munroe

Huffington Post
"A recent visit to the Palm Springs Museum affirms for me that all artists are immigrants. If not in a literal sense then in a figurative sense, they are strangers to the society surrounding them. In the desert resort city, populated by celebrities in steel houses, the local museum is exceptional. At the moment, it has exhibits by both Ai Wei Wei, the Chinese dissident renowned the world over, as well as Hung Liu, a professor of painting from China who has become a citizen of America." - Frank H. Wu

Washington Post
"The centerpiece of that show, Hung Liu's "Daughter of China, Resident Alien," is a pile of some 200,000 fortune cookies atop tracks that evoke the role of Chinese labor in building American railways. In a large painting based on the artist's green card, she takes the name "Cookie, Fortune." Many of Liu's paintings are derived from photos or propaganda-film stills and dissolve realism into abstraction to represent the evaporation of Marxist-Leninist China and her memories of it." - Mark Jenkins
UCSD Visual Arts Department link:
Los Angeles Times 
"Her new paintings are portraits of the most humble of flowers - dandelions - and they are spectacular." - Sharon Mizota
Kansas City Star
In "Summoning Ghosts" at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Chinese-born artist Hung Liu quite literally "summons ghosts," bringing the dead and willfully forgotten into our view through large paintings based on 19th and 20th century photographs taken in China. - Neil Thrun
KQED Radio
Confined in China, Ai Weiwei Directs Alcatraz Exhibit from Afar (Hung Liu interviewed), Mina Kim, September 27, 2014. "Painter Hung Liu is close friends with Ai. Liu grew up during China's Cultural Revolution under Mao Tse-Tung, and like Ai, China's politics and culture infuse her work. She is wary of political art becoming too didactic. 'When you have a strong political agenda, a strong message, you have to be careful if you want to use art form,' the painter says. Liu says she plans to take a serious look at Ai's Alcatraz work, and hopes others will get past his superstar status and do the same.  'Ai Weiwei's super-famous. Some people call him God Ai -  Ai shen ,' Liu says. 'I think it's little too far.'  It's important for people to continue to think critically about Ai's work, Liu says - after all, people tried to make Mao a god, too." - Mina Kim
SF Chronicle
Many contemporary painters struggle to get history into their work without looking pretentious or ideologically motivated. But big events of the late 20th century weighed so heavily on the life of Oakland painter Hung Liuthat she might have found it difficult to keep history out of her work. - Kenneth Baker

Square Cylinder
It's easy to marvel at how Liu's mix of abstraction and realism draw us into the past.  Yet virtuosity alone doesn't explain the emotional pull of her painting.  So I'll venture a theory: Since Liu works from photos, her painting process is analogous to the photochemical act of "fixing" an image in the darkroom from which pictures seemingly emerge out of nowhere. Liu performs a kind of psychic translation of that act, supplementing it with lived experience and an extraordinary level of empathy.  Result: she can paint from photos and literally "summon ghosts." - David Roth

KQED Radio
Hung Liu is good at summoning ghosts -- from memory and history. She's an Oakland artist born in China, and "Summoning Ghosts" is the title of a new retrospective of her work at the Oakland Museum of California.  - Cy Musiker

Hung Liu is widely considered one of the most important Chinese artists working in America today. - Interview by Rachelle Reichert

Art Practical
The spare aesthetic of the exhibition currently on view at the Mills College Art Museum belies the fullness of the Bay Area artist and educator Hung Liu's major concern: history. - Ellen Tani

Art Practical
In February 1948, the artist Hung Liu was born in Changchun, in the far north of China. Only months later, the city was the site of a major siege by the People's Liberation Army.  - Matthew Harrison Tedford

Contra Costa Times
She's internationally known for her dramatic paintings, which often layer historical images with scenes from her own life or those of everyday people who didn't make it into the history books.  - Angela Hill

San Francisco Chronicle/SFgate
In the early 1970s, Hung Liu, who was being trained in the strict Social Realist style required of Chinese artists at the time, surreptitiously made small landscape paintings that contained no images of Chairman Mao, heroic soldiers or happy peasants. She hid them under her bed to dry.  - Jesse Hamlin

Publications (Hot off the Press)

Zoetrope: All Story
Frances Ford Coppola's Literary Magazine
Winter 17/18, Volume 21


Hung Liu: Promised Land
Essay by Maria Porges
Rena Bransten Gallery/Hung Liu Studio, 2017
Catalogues available

(Warm off the Press)

Hung Liu: American Exodus
Introduction by Lori Fogarty
Essays by John Yau & Drew Johnson
Interview by Rachelle Reichert
Nancy Hoffman Gallery/Hung Liu Studio, 2016
Catalogues available

Hung Liu: Scales of History
Essay by Jeff Kelley
Fresno Art Museum/Hung Liu Studio, 2016
Catalogues available

Hung Liu: Daughter of China, Resident Alien
Essay by David Pagel; Conversation between Peter Selz & Jeff Kelley
American University Museum, Katzen Center, Washington DC/Hung Liu Studio, 2016
Catalogues available

Hung Liu: Questions from the Sky
Ed Hardy, Susan Krane
Hahrdymarks Press, 2015 

Chinese Contemporary Art
Wu Hung
Thames & Hudson

Qianshan: Grandfather's Mountain
Interview by Rachelle Reichert
Nancy Hoffman Gallery, 2013

Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu
Essays by Wu Hung, Yiyun Li, Rene De Guzman, Karen Smith, Stephanie Hanor, Bill Berkson
216 pages,  Oakland Museum of California & The University of California Press   

Hung Liu: Great Granary
Essay & Interview by Wu Hung
Xin Beijing Art Gallery / Timezone 8 Press
Available through Hung Liu Studio


Thank You!
Hung Liu Studio