Hung Liu, Artist Who Blended East and West, Is Dead at 73

Hung Liu, a Chinese American artist whose work merged previous and present, East and West, earning her acclaim in her adopted nation and censorship in the land of her delivery, died on Aug. 7 at her house in Oakland, Calif. She was 73.

The lead to was pancreatic most cancers, Nancy Hoffman Gallery, which represents Ms. Liu in New York, stated in a assertion.

Her loss of life came considerably less than 3 months prior to the scheduled opening of a occupation survey, “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands,” at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. She was the 1st Asian American girl to have a solo exhibition there.

“Five-thousand-12 months-aged society on my back late-twentieth-century planet in my face” is how Ms. Liu described her daily life-transforming arrival in the United States from China in 1984, when she was 36 and presently an attained painter. Her goal in The usa, she as soon as explained, was “to invent a way of letting myself to apply as a Chinese artist outside the house of a Chinese tradition.”

As she rapidly learned, one dilemma with staying a Chinese artist outdoors China was the have to have to offer with, and to counter, cultural expectations. Her extremely title instantly evoked, for several Western viewers, associations with time-honored but stereotypical “Oriental” art kinds like calligraphy and brush-and-ink portray. In addition, at that point, in advance of the arrival of the globalist artwork wave in the 1990s, the artwork world in Europe and the United States had very little recognition that modern Chinese art even existed.

Her operate integrated photo-primarily based photos that merged the political and the personal. Quite a few of these visuals have been of figures neglected by record: laborers, immigrants, prisoners, prostitutes. In some conditions, she depicted them wreathed in flowers. There had been also portraits of her Chinese loved ones, including 1 of her father, derived from a snapshot she herself experienced taken when visiting him in a labor camp.

Her 1988 painting “Resident Alien,” which grew to become her most commonly reproduced, is a mural-size depiction of her eco-friendly card. It involves a realistically rendered self-portrait, but the pinpointing identify on the card has been modified to “Cookie, Fortune” and the delivery yr from 1948 to 1984, the 12 months she immigrated.

Hung Liu was born on Feb. 17, 1948, in Changchun, in northeast China, during the revolutionary period. When she was a youngster, her father, a instructor, was imprisoned for his involvement in anti-Communist politics. Through the Cultural Revolution, she herself was despatched by the government into the countryside to operate on farms for “re-instruction.” Though there, she secretly photographed and sketched each day village everyday living.

She also traveled in China, traveling to historic sites and, working with a pocket-measurement paint box, generating copies of, amongst other points, murals carved and painted by Buddhist monks from the fifth to the 14th century in caves at Dunhuang, in far western Gansu province.

In the 1970s she researched at Beijing Academics Faculty and Central Academy of Wonderful Arts. In 1981 she attained a graduate diploma from the Central Academy of Good Arts, in which she specialized in and taught mural portray.

Restless with the formally sanctioned Socialist Realist design and style and subjects, she continuously utilized to the Chinese govt for a passport making it possible for journey to the United States. When permission last but not least came in 1984, she flew to California and enrolled in the M.F.A. application at the College of California, San Diego.

1 of her instructors there was the conceptual artist Allan Kaprow, who experienced a very long familiarity with Asian artwork and viewed both equally art and culture as ductile categories. His existence assured a welcoming setting for her aims.

Right after being awarded a residency at the Capp Avenue Venture, an art area and artist residency in San Francisco, in 1988, Ms. Liu settled forever in the Bay Area. In 1990 she started a extensive educating profession at Mills University in Oakland. She retired in 2014.

Her to start with United States exhibit, in 1985, consisted of drawings she experienced introduced with her of the Dunhuang murals, but the function she commenced generating in California was very diverse.

Her political content became more emphatic in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Sq. massacre. In a blended-media installation from that yr, “Trauma,” the cutout determine of a girl dressed in conventional Chinese robes, with her ft certain, floats on the wall more than the system of a fallen college student. Hanging on the wall between them is the black silhouette of Mao Zedong’s confront. The flooring under is splashed with blood-red paint.

In 1994, for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco, Ms. Liu generated an installation commemorating the Chinese immigrants who died whilst setting up the Western part of the transcontinental railroad. In the 2000s, she commenced performing intensively with non-Chinese resources, basing a sequence of paintings on documentary pics of the Wonderful Melancholy by the American photographer Dorothea Lange. The scenes of rural Dust Bowl destitution captured by Lange reminded her of those she experienced witnessed, and recorded in drawings, whilst dwelling amongst China’s rural lousy.

Most of Ms. Liu’s paintings were finished in a brushy model of the realist style in which she experienced been qualified. But, skeptical of any statements to veracity in the depiction of heritage, she routinely included the floor of her paintings with linseed oil washes, which sent rivulets of transparent liquid functioning down the canvas. This official effect has invited different interpretations: blurred memory, tears, fact as an illusion.

Ms. Liu experienced several institutional reveals in the United States, such as the 2013 retrospective “Summoning the Ghosts: The Artwork of Hung Liu,” which was structured by the Oakland Museum of California and traveled nationally. The exhibition “Hung Liu: Golden Gate” is at this time on check out at the de Younger Museum. The National Portrait Gallery present, which will run by means of Might 30, 2022, is her initial important East Coast presentation.

In 2008, when China was loosening culturally, Ms. Liu was provided a retrospective at the Xin Beijing gallery. But a 2019 study scheduled for the UCCA Center for Modern day Art in Beijing was abruptly canceled by the Chinese government, even after she acceded to its need to take away items that, in mild of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, ended up deemed inflammatory.

Ms. Liu is survived by her husband, the critic and curator Jeff Kelley a son, Lingchen Kelley and a grandson.

In addition to her paintings, Ms. Liu produced a several lasting public is effective, such as “Going Away, Coming Home,” a 160-foot-prolonged mural mounted in Oakland Intercontinental Airport. It is composed solely of glass windows painted with illustrations or photos derived from a 12th-century Chinese scroll painting: dozens of ethereal flying white cranes, classic Chinese symbols of superior fortune.

The picture is just one of the most unabashedly poetic produced by an artist who wrote, in “Ghosts/Seventy Portraits,” a 2020 collection of her get the job done: “When I moved to the West, particularly 50 % a life time ago, I carried my ghosts with me. The ghosts I have are a stress, but also a blessing.”

Mary E. Alvarez

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