Turner Carroll Gallery is pleased to announce “Hung Liu: Catcher in the Rays.” This exhibition will showcase oil paintings from her latest series of works based on Dorothea Lange’s photographs from the American Dust Bowl era. Liu’s profoundly emotive paintings portray Lange’s subjects almost as metaphors for the Chinese diaspora: whether moving willingly or not. Hung’s brightly colored lines suggest a nervous system vibrating with inner strength in what she calls “hope coming from between the cracks of things.”
Hung Liu was born in China to a captain in Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Army. Her father was later captured by Communist forces and imprisoned in a labor camp. Hung and her mother fled to Beijing, where they survived Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward and the mass famine it induced. Hung’s mother destroyed all family photos depicting Hung’s father in order to protect Hung from the Mao regime, which viewed Nationalists and their families as enemies of the people. Hung thus came to treasure family photographs, whether they depicted her own family or someone else’s.
When Hung was sent to the countryside for proletarian “re-education” at age 20, toiling in rice and wheat fields 364 days/year for four long years, a friend asked Hung to safeguard her camera. During that time, Hung took secret photographs of her fellow Chinese laborers. These photographs became her collective family album; they are the basis for her iconic portraits in which she has memorialized these workers’ humanity for the last thirty years of her painting practice.
Liu became interested in Lange’s imagery through their shared passion capturing the dignity of their subjects. Historically, Liu’s work has carried the themes of migration, labor, oppression, and marginalization, and these themes continue through and tie together this newest series. Through her art, Liu recognizes the power inherent in the struggle of Dust Bowl and Great Depression Era migrant workers, field hands, immigrants, and disenfranchised minorities. Vivid strokes of vibrancy crack through what is a predominantly muted color palette as if to breathe new life into the pale ghosts of the dispossessed. Hung speaks of the Americans in her paintings as her ancestors, even though she is from China: “we adopt each other’s children, why shouldn’t we adopt each other’s ancestors, as well?”
This exploration is meant to act as a magnifying lens for the current global refugee crisis, driven by war, ecological disaster, and famine. Caught amid a global political climate of growing fear and distrust, Hung Liu makes a potent statement about our place as moral citizens of common history.
Opening Reception Friday, July 19, 2019 from 5 to 7pm