Hung Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948. She grew up in Beijing during the time of Mao Zedong. After finishing high school in 1968 she was sent to the countryside for four years during the Cultural Revolution where she worked with peasants in rice, wheat, and cornfields seven days a week. During this time, she photographed and painted these people, and they remain the subjects of her paintings today. Hung wants to give these people a life of beauty and respect in her paintings.
Hung attended the Central Academy of Art in Beijing, and waited seven years for the Chinese government to approve her passport to pursue her Master’s Degree in painting at U.C. San Diego. Since her arrival in the U.S., Hung’s works have been collected and exhibited by this nation’s top museums, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, San Jose Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Dallas Museum of Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Walker Art Center, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Katzen Arts Center at American University, National Museum of Women in the Art, New Britain Museum of American Art, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Boise Art Museum, Polk Museum of Art, John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Baltimore’s Contemporary Museum, The Chrysler Museum, Heckscher Museum of Art, Schnitzer Museum of Art, Monterrey Museum of Art, Knoxville Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of California, Ackland Art Museum, and many, many more. She has created large scale paintings for the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, as well as the Oakland International Airport and the San Francisco International Airport.
Hung Liu has twice received prestigious fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Additionally, she is a Professor Emerita at Mills College in Oakland, California. Several books have been written about Hung Liu and her works, and can be found on the Turner Carroll Gallery web site.
Hung Liu seems to be parodying the spate of recent Pop-art-esque Chinese painters in her own latest paintings. Their various tropes recur, though much more naturalistically rendered, in Liu’s own pictures: grinning kids, family groups, Mao-era kitsch, Mao suits, Mao himself, and so forth. But Liu has no critique of her fellow artists in mind; the images she paints with her broad, wet, staggeringly articulate brush were originally photographs she took in and around the village(s) she inhabited as an adolescent during the Cultural Revolution. In other words, Bay Area-based Liu draws upon exactly what her co-generationalists working in Beijing work from, their experience as so many tiny cogs in a massive, brutal experiment. They all know now how lucky they are to be alive. But this was their childhood, so they regard it with as much nostalgia as horror or regret. The Chinese Pop painters distance themselves from such tumultuous feelings, making a big show of their irony; Liu, on the other hand, embodies the complexity of such fraught recollections in her rich, virtuosic technique – and also in the disarmingly pleasant attitudes projected by her subjects, as well as gentling motifs (flowers, butterflies) she adds almost as iconographic band-aids to reassure viewers and comfort her subjects. Liu knows she is producing layered pictures, and she paints-and adds layers-accordingly.
— Peter Frank, Huffington Post, January 2012