The Rena Bransten Gallery is pleased to present Happy and Gay, an exhibition of new works by Hung Liu.
In the new paintings, Liu revisits her childhood through recreations of pages from primers as well as depictions of her local street readers - book stands where children could rent and read on premises. The primers were not only sources of entertainment, but also effective propaganda tools. Their illustrations glorified civic responsibility and cooperation through the joyful performance of manual labor by happy and gay villagers of all ages.
In other paintings inspired by these childhood memories of reading, Liu illustrates verses from the ancient Chinese poem, “The Ballad of Mulan,” featuring a female heroine who went to war in place of her aged father and led many victorious campaigns. Upon returning to village life years later, she shunned a hero’s welcome or any personal recognition. Through the Mulan series, Liu continues to mine China’s cultural history for stories of exemplary women who set the standards for a future enlightened social order.
Among the paintings in Happy and Gay, and a frequent visual device in Liu’s works, are lush details of animals and mythical landscapes which, along with the social realist images and those of Mulan, reveal Liu’s attempt to ameliorate pointed political content or issues of social inequality with natural or supernatural beauty. Liu’s awareness and depiction of the many disparities in real life, fiction, fantasy, and history provide the dynamic tension in much of her work. In these new paintings, she negotiates her way between a personal history that embraces larger social issues and confirms the power of art to confront, comment, and comfort.
Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948 and graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. She 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 professor at Mills College. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and the National Endowment of the Arts Painting Fellowship. Her work has been exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis among others. From January through September 2013, a Retrospective of Hung’s work will start at the Oakland Museum of Art and travel to several other museums.
PLEASE NOTE: The gallery will be closed for the holidays December 23, 2012 through January 1, 2013.