Hung Liu’s remarkable and lush paintings (based on historical photographs of China) have made her one of the most beloved artists represented in SJMA’s collection—and one of the most important Chinese-American artists working today. Hung Liu has long paid witness to the tribulations of everyday people, past and present, and their hidden stories of social injustice. She grapples with issues of self, society, and politics—as well as the challenge of reconciling disparate cultures.
This exhibition showcases surprising new, intimate work by Liu. She contemplates the cycles of life, death, and memory in an installation of three videos entitled Black Rain, Candle, and Between Sky and Earth (2013). The videos are based on snapshots made daily with her iPhone over the course of the year following her mother’s death. These simple images of burning candles; fallen birds and deer; Buddha’s hand citrus fruit; and cloud formations poetically reflect Liu’s contemplative state of mind. For Liu, the images provoke questions of how we remember those who have passed. Liu will also create sitespecific wall paintings in the gallery using imagery from the videos alongside her signature circles and drips. The installation is a meditation on the universal circle of birth, life, and death—on nature’s mortality and immortality.
Born in Changchun in 1948, a year before the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Liu experienced the the Cultural Revolution first hand. She came to the United States in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego. One of the first people from mainland China to study abroad and pursue an art career, she moved to Northern California in 1990 to join the faculty at Mills College, Oakland, where she is a professor.
Questions from the Sky is SJMA’s contribution to a Bay Area tribute to Hung Liu’s work that began with Mills College Art Museum’s presentation of Hung Liu: Offerings (January 23–March 17, 2013) and the Oakland Museum of California’s Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu (through June 30, 2013).