Hung Liu: Sundown of the Last Dynasty
December 5, 2009 - April 3, 2010
Michael Berger Gallery is pleased to extend its second solo exhibition by internationally known artist Hung Liu. The exhibition features two new bodies of work: Jacquard tapestries and a series of prints, Music of the Great Earth Variations, each created in collaboration with Magnolia Editions, a fine art print studio in Oakland, California.
In this exhibition, Liu translates her trademark drips, calligraphic flourishes, and painterly gestures into the language of woven tapestries. Liu created these powerful and intricate large-scale tapestries using digital scans of her earlier paintings and sketches. She revisits her cast of characters from found 19th and 20th century photographs, but reintroduces them in the new medium of tapestry. For centuries tapestries have been utilized as a medium for depicting religious, mythological, and historical subjects. Liu’s new work not only pays tribute to the medium’s history, but also refreshes it with a contemporary edge.
Liu’s husband, philosophy professor Jeff Kelley, describes her work as an alchemical marriage, in which “the fresh, luscious poetry of the “mineral period” (painting) presses against the dry atrophied plates of the “chemical period” (photography).” Magnolia Editions believes that “Liu’s tapestries, then, are the grandchildren of this marriage— a new hybrid, in which the singular texture and familiar physical presence of textiles are infused with the precise values of the digital period.”
Hung Liu's Music of the Great Earth Variations series comprises variations on an image originally realized as a forty-foot wide mural. The imagery is drawn partially from drawings based on Chinese murals of court musicians, while each variation assumes a unique aura depending on Liu’s choice of color. These powerful prints span 90 inches long, in which poised figures dance across and through undulating color fields. They are reminiscent of wall reliefs in old temples and ancient buildings, but also feel incredibly vibrant and full of life.
Liu’s work exists as a visual investigation of history and memory. Hung Liu was born in 1948 in Changchun, the former imperial capital of Manchuria and was raised in Beijing. She grew up during the Cultural Revolution in China and during these times, her world was turned inside out. Under the strict Communist rule, she was sent to live in the countryside for four years to be “reeducated”, and it left her feeling disillusioned. Because of that she questions, what is history? What makes up her history? This questioning comes through in her work, which is vested in subject matter rife with history, but through Liu’s discerning eye, which allows the work to transcend time and feel fresh and eternally present.
Liu 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 tenured professor in the art department at Mills College. She has had numerous solo exhibitions and her work is represented in major museum collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.