Hung Liu

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Hung Liu (刘虹) (born February 17, 1948) is a Chinese-born American contemporary artist.

The artist Hung Liu posing in front of one of her paintings from the "Daughters of China" series.

Life and career[edit]

Hung Liu was born in Changchun, People's Republic, China, in 1948, and immigrated to the United States in 1984. She attended Beijing Teachers College in 1975 and studied mural painting as a graduate student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.[1] She is a class of '86 alumna of UC, San Diego. Her paintings and prints often make use of anonymous Chinese historical photographs, particularly those of women, children, refugees, and soldiers as subject matter. Liu's paintings - often large, drippy, and washed with layers of linseed oil - can be seen as critiques of the rigid academicism of the Chinese Socialist Realist style in which she was trained, as well as metaphors for the loss of historical memory. Given the pathos that often infuses her works, her painting style might be thought of as a kind of "weeping realism."

One of the first Chinese artists to study in the U.S., Liu is regarded by many as "the greatest Chinese painter in the US."[2] Liu has received numerous awards, including two painting fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Joan Mitchell Fellowship, and her work is represented in the permanent collections of major museums and private collections throughout the United States and Asia. She is currently the Professor Emerita of Painting at Mills College in Oakland, California, where she taught from 1990 until retiring in 2014.

Summoning Ghosts[edit]

Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu was a retrospective collection of Liu’s work of around 80 paintings and an assortment of photographs, studies, and sketchbooks. It remains the most extensive exhibit of her work to date, with paintings from more than 40 collections displayed. These paintings draw upon her personal history and experience of the Maoist regime, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution, as well as drawing from themes of Ancient China.[3] Réne de Guzman, the chief curator at the Oakland Museum of California, organized the exhibit in collaboration with Hung Liu. The artist describes the exhibit as a “…full circle. Where I come from, what I was interested in, and what was possible to do in China.”[4]

Summoning Ghosts opened at the Oakland Museum of California on March 16, 2013.[5] The exhibit travelled to the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in October, 2014 and finished its tour at the Palm Springs Art Museum .[6]

Exhibit Overview[edit]

The exhibit featured works from throughout Hung Liu’s artistic career, beginning from the late 1960s.[7] The exhibited works also featured Hung Liu’s typical style of dripping paint and layered brushstrokes.[8] This dripping is described by art critic Bill Berkson as “analogous to memory” and how “[memory] is blurred.”[9] It is the opposite of Socialist Realism, through a mix of surrealism and an absence of the Socialist political drive.[10]

Exhibit Details[edit]

Summoning Ghosts included a series called “My Secret Freedom,” featuring a collection of early-1970s miniature landscape paintings made on the outskirts of Beijing, where she had worked in fields during the Cultural Revolution.[11] These paintings depict scenes of everyday life, from houses, bushes, and canals. The title emerges from the ban of non-sanctioned art of the Maoist Regime.[12]

Many of her paintings are inspired by her personal collection of 19th century Chinese photographs, with a large portion that feature prostitutes. Liu believes her paintings “gives a spirit to them, the forgotten.” [8] They bring details of Chinese history and memory into the present for American viewers.[13]


  1. ^ Kara Kelly Hallmark, Encyclopedia of Asian American Artists, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007, p115. ISBN 0-313-33451-X
  2. ^ David Littlejohn, Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2013 5:26 p.m. ET
  3. ^ "Biography". Hung Liu. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  4. ^ Oakland Museum of California. "Summoning Ghosts: Full Circle". Youtube. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  5. ^ "Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu Exhibition". Oakland Museum of California. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Current Exhibit". Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  7. ^ Reichart, Rachelle. "Artist Interview: Hung Liu". Art-Rated. 
  8. ^ a b Tsui, Shu-chin. "‘Summoning Ghosts’ with Artist Hung Liu". Bowdoin College in the News. Vimeo. 
  9. ^ "Hung Liu Spark* Interview". KQED Arts. Retrieved 20 November 2014. 
  10. ^ Musiker, Cy. "A Woman Who Can Summon Ghosts". KQED News. Retrieved 22 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Hung Liu". Nancy Hoffman Gallery. Retrieved 9 December 2014. 
  12. ^ "Summoning Ghosts: An Interview with Hung Liu". Youtube. Oakland Museum of Art. Retrieved 21 November 2014. 
  13. ^ Guzman, Réne de (2013). Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu. UC Press. 

External links[edit]