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  • Artist: Hung Liu
  • Medium(s): Oil painting ZaZhong Lithography
  • Born in: Changchun, China
  • Exhibitions List 

Known for paintings drawn from Chinese historical photography, Hung Liu’s works focus on what she calls the “mythic poses” that underlay the photographic surfaces of history. Representing such elemental human activities as laboring, eating, journeying, leaping, fighting, dreaming, and carrying one’s burden, these “mythic poses” come from particular historical circumstances, but seem epic, trans-historical, and allegorical in the her paintings. With an overlay of traditional Chinese birds, flowers, insects, dragons, and – most recently – stylized human figures, Liu offers her subjects artistic evidence of their own rich heritage – as if to remind or comfort them.

As a painter, Liu subjects the documentary authority of historical photographs to the more reflective process of painting; she has written: “I want to both preserve and destroy the image.”

Much of the meaning of Liu’s painting comes from the way the washes and drips dissolve the photo-based images, suggesting the passage of memory into history, while working to uncover the cultural and personal narratives fixed – but often concealed – in the photographic instant. In effect, Liu turns old photographs into new paintings, liberating the rigid methodology of socialist realism – the style in which she was trained – as an improvisational painting style that dissolves the photo-realism of propaganda art into a fresh kind of history painting. She converts socialist realism into social realism.

Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948, growing up under the Maoist regime. She immigrated to the US in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego, where she received her MFA. She currently lives in Oakland and is a tenured professor in the art department at Mills College.


  • 2011

    Solo exhibition, Elisabeth de Brabant Art Center, Shanghai

  • 2011

    Solo exhibition, Elisabeth de Brabant Art Center, Shanghai
    “Then and Now,” Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, USA

  • 2008

    “Memorial Grounds 1988-2006,” Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia, USA

  • 2007

    “Daughter of China, 1938,” Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    “Hung Liu: New Work,” Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
    “Hung Liu: Old Road, West Wind,” iPreciation Gallery, Singapore

  • 2006

    “Full Circle: Revolutions in the Paintings of Hung Liu,” Paul Robeson Gallery, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA
    “Hung Liu: New Work,” Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, USA
    “Intersections: Shifting Identity in Contemporary Art,” John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA

  • 2005

    “Hung Liu: A Decade of Paintings,” Guilford College Art Gallery, Hege, Germany
    “Hung Liu: An Exhibition of New Work at Trillium Press,” Brisbane, Australia
    Nathan Larramendy Gallery, Ojai, California, USA
    “Polly Portrait of a Pioneer,” Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA

  • 2004

    “The Vanishing: Re-presenting the Chinese in the American West,” Sun
    Valley Center for the Arts, Ketchum, Idaho. Traveling to Prichard Art Gallery,
    University of Idaho, Moscow; Salt Lake Art Center, Salt Lake City, Utah; University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie; Schneider Museum of Art, Southern Oregon University, USA

  • 2003

    “Geography of Memory,” Monterey Museum of Art, California, USA
    “New Prints by Hung Liu,” Paulson Press, Berkeley, California, USA
    Anne Reed Gallery, Ketchum, Idaho, USA
    "Towards Peng-Lai (Paradise)," Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    "Strange Fruit," Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe; Boise Art Museum, Idaho; Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, California; Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, USA

  • 2002

    “Painterly Proofs,” de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, California
    Polk Museum of Art, Lakeland, Florida, USA
    University of Wyoming Art Museum, USA

  • 2001

    "Between History and Me," Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe; Boise Art Museum, Idaho, USA
    “Beyond the Frame: Hung Liu,” Knoxville Museum of Art, Tennessee, USA
    “Hiu Yin (Echoes),” Mabel Smith Douglass Library, Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA
    "A Retrospective of Contemporary Paintings by Hung Liu," Ellen Noel Art Museum of the Permian Basin, Odessa, Texas, USA
    "Studio Sessions," Craft and Cultural Arts Department, City of Oakland and State of California Gallery, Oakland, California, USA

  • 2000

    LewAllen Contemporary, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
    Byron Cohen Gallery, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
    "Where is Mao? 2000," The Art Center, Center of Academic Resources, Chulalongkom University, Bangkok, Thailand

  • 1999

    The Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA
    Miami University Hiestand Galleries, Oxford, Ohio, USA

  • 1998

    "Chinese Types," Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    Schneider Museum of Art, Southern Oregon University, USA
    "Hung Liu: A Survey, 1988-1998," The Ackland Art Museum, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Bowdin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine; University of California, San Diego, La Jolla; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia; The College of Wooster Art Museum, Wooster, Ohio, USA

  • 1997

    Crealde School, Winter Park, Florida, USA
    “Unfolding Memory-Picturing History," Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA
    “Parameters: Hung Liu,” The Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia, USA
    "Can-ton: The Baltimore Series," The Contemporary at the Canton National Bank, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
    "Focus: Hung Liu," Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Indiana, USA
    "Tradewind," Ohlone College, Fremont, California, USA

  • 1994

    Fine Arts Gallery, University of California at Irvine, USA
    "Identity Fragments," Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, Porter College, University of California at Santa Cruz, USA
    "Jiu Jin Shan," M.H. deYong de Young Memorial Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, USA
    "Tales of Chinese Women," John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA
    “Two Small Bodies," Churchill County Library, Churchill County Arts Council, Fallon, Nevada, USA

  • 1990

    "Trauma, 1989,” Diverseworks, Houston, Texas, USA

  • 1989

    "Chinese Pieta,” The Woman's Building, Los Angeles, USA

  • 1988

    "Figures," Brazos Gallery, Richard College, Dallas, Texas, USA
    "Reading Room", Community Room of Chinese for Affirmative Action, Kuo Building, San Francisco, USA
    "Resident Alien,” Capp Street Project, Monadnock Building, San Francisco, USA
    "Where is Mao?" Brown-Lupton Gallery, Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, Texas; Southwestern College Art Gallery, Chula Vista, California, USA

  • 1987

    "Combinations," Bath House Cultural Center, Dallas, Texas, USA
    "Once there were Ten Suns...," D-Art Visual Art Center, South Dallas Cultural Center, Texas, USA

  • 1986

    "Art and the Tao," Media Center and Communications Building, University of San Diego, USA
    "Up and Tao,” Media Center and Communications Building, University of California, San Diego, USA

  • 1981

    "The Music of the Great Earth,” Foreign Students Dining Hall, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing


  • 2008

    The Half-Life of a Dream: Chinese Contemporary Art from the Logan Collection,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA

  • 2007

    “Contemporary Combustion: Chinese Artists in America,” New Britain Museum of Art, Connecticut, USA
    “Figure It! The Human Factor in Contemporary Art”, Clay Center, Charleston, West Virginia, USA
    “High Fiber,” American University Museum at the Katzen, Washington, D.C.
    “Home Sweet Home,” San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, California, USA
    “Visual Politics: The Art of Engagement,” American University Museum, Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C.
    “Who’s Afraid of San Francisco?” Frey Norris Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    “A Motion Picture,” The M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco, USA

  • 2004

    “Collection Highlights,” San Jose Museum of Art, California, USA
    “Family Ties: A Contemporary Perspective,” Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, USA
    “Vertigo,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, USA

  • 2002

    "Art/Woman/California: Parallels and Intersections, 1950-2000," San Jose Museum of Art, California, USA
    “Box Art/Art Box,” Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, California, USA
    "Contemporary Printmakers," J. Johnson Gallery, Jacksonville Beach, Florida, USA
    "First Impressions: The Paulson Press," San Jose Museum of Art, California, USA
    "Oakland Portraits: Then and Now, 1852-2002," Oakland Art Gallery, California, USA
    "Printworks 2002," Key Tower Gallery, Seattle Arts Commission, Washington
    “Summer Show," Anne Reed Gallery, Ketchum, Idaho, USA

  • 2001

    "About Face: Considering Portraits," Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    "Collecting Our Thoughts: The Community Responds to Art in the Permanent Collection," San Jose Museum of Art, California, USA
    "Digital Printmaking Now," Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York, USA
    "The 43rd Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting," The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
    "Winter Work," Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, California, USA

  • 2000

    “Text & Subtext: Contemporary Art and Asian Women,” Earl Lu Gallery, LaSalle-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore; Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Skeppsholmen, Stockholm, Sweden; Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan, Republic of China
    “The Big Picture,” Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
    "Critical Masses," Denver Art Museum, Colorado, USA
    "Expanded Visions: Four Women Artists Print the American West," Women of the West Museum, Denver, Colorado, USA
    "Millennium Message-Time Capsules," Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York; Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
    "New Work: Painting Today, Recent Acquisitions," San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, USA
    "Paper Cuts," Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    “Six Degrees of Inspiration,” Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, Virginia Beach; Peninsula Fine Arts Center, Newport News, Virginia, USA
    "There but for the grace of...Temporary Shelters," Here Here Gallery, Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    "30+ East Bay Painters & Graphic Artists," The Oakland Museum, California, USA
    "The View from Here," Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia
    “Into the 21st Century: Selections from the Permanent Collection,” San Jose Museum of Art, California, USA
    1998"Bicultural Identities: Three Emigres from Bosnia, China and Vietnam," Dunedin Fine Art Center, Florida, USA
    "Concerning the Figure," University Art Gallery, California State University, Hayward, USA
    "East Meets East in the West," LIMN Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    “Prints from Paulson Press,” Traywick Gallery, Berkeley, California, USA
    "Rights of Spring," P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York, USA
    "Unthinkable Tenderness: The Art of Human Rights," San Francisco State University, USA

  • 1997

    "American Stories--Amidst Displacement and Transformation," Setagaya Art Museum, Tokyo; Chiba City Museum of Art, Chiba; Fukui Fine Arts Museum, Fukui; Kurashiki City Museum of Art, Kurashiki; Atorion, Akita Prefectural Cultural Hall, Akita, Japan
    "American Kaleidoscope: Themes and Perspectives in Recent Art," National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
    "On the Rim," TransAmerica Building, San Francisco, USA
    “Regionalism/Identity,” Sheppard Gallery, University of Nevada, Reno, USA
    "Traditions/Innovations: Four Northern California Arts," Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, USA

  • 1996

    "Excavating Culture," Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, Vermont, USA
    "Family in Focus: Cultural Diversity and the Family," The Noyes Museum, Oceanville, New Jersey, USA
    "Gender Beyond Memory: The Works of Contemporary Women Artists,” Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Japan

  • 1995

    "About Faces," Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, USA
    "Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art,” Asia Society Galleries, New York; Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, California; Honolulu Academy of Arts, Hawaii; List Art
    Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Tacoma Art Museum, Washington; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota , USA
    "Dis-Oriented: Shifting Identities of Asian Women in America," Steinbaum Krauss Gallery, New York; The Henry Street Settlement, New York, USA
    "Garden Variety," Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco, USA
    "Making Faces: American Portraits," The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, USA
    "Setting the Stage: A Contemporary View of the West," Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

  • 1994

    "Asia/America: Identities in Contemporary Asian American Art," Asia Society Galleries, New York, USA