Hung Liu
(Changchun, China, 1948 - Oakland, California, CA, USA, 2021)

Internees, 2018

Oil on canvas
150,07 x 175 cm
[Photo: Ela Bialkowska, OKNO Studio, © ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy Pascale Marthine Tayou and GALLERIA CONTINUA, by SIAE 2021]

Hung Liu has overcome great challenges in her life, as to leave her home in Changchun, China, her father imprisoned when she was six months old. Her family, school friends and teachers were subjected to the horrors of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Then, she was sent to the Chinese countryside to endure forced labor for four years. For this reason, in her paintings she remembers and honors those people suffering from totalitarian, paying special tribute to children, mothers and migrants. 

Internees is inspired by the photographic series by Dorothea Lange focusing on Japanese Americans: in 1942 the U.S. government established the War Relocation Authority to identify Americans of Japanese origin and send them to internment camps. Later, a series of photographs was commissioned for the purpose of illustrating the human and orderly treatment of the evacuation and imprisonment. What they received was a photographic record that showed the horror, the terror and sadness of families being forced to leave their homes, their pets, their farms and their businesses. The children and adults were tagged for identification. Hung has taken one of these photographs, emphasized the dehumanizing identification tags, and juxtaposed them with images of a origami crane, a bird symbolizing freedom.

Hung Liu studied mural painting as a graduate student at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, before immigrating to the United States in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego, where she studied under Allan Kaprow. A two-time recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in painting, Liu also received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Printmaking from the Southern Graphics Council International in 2011. A retrospective of Liu’s work was organized by the Oakland Museum of California, and traveled through 2015. In 2021, the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian organized a retrospective look at the artist’s portraits. Liu’s works have been exhibited extensively, and collected by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the National Gallery of Art and The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C. At her death, in 2021, Liu was a Professor Emerita at Mills College, in Oakland, where she had taught since 1990.