Hung Liu’s career long commitment to reframing and communicating epic human stories continues, in this case focused on American ones: The Great Depression; the Dust Bowl; the Japanese Internment. Through the lens and photographs of Dorothea Lange, Hung Liu traces the toll and transmission of these economic, political, and environmental upheavals.
Included in this exhibition is a new method of composing works, called “ensemble paintings.” People and objects are isolated from Dorothea Lange’s photographs and digitally printed on shaped wood and aluminum cutouts. These elements are then painted, new components of oil on canvas circles added, and the “ensemble” reordered into new compositions, yielding fresh narratives in the lives, belongings, and shelters of these displaced people. Each new ensemble includes a photographic print on aluminum of a Dorothea Lange cloudscape, adding to the notion of freedom and floating in a tentative space – like clouds themselves, or an expression on a face, an instant – an analog of the photographic moment.
Lange’s photographs, taken during the Great Depression and Dustbowl era, aimed to bring a heightened humanity to the droves of individual Americans struggling to survive the economic and agricultural crisis of the time. Liu’s affinity for investigating humanity and her deep kinship with Lange and the subjects of her photographs is palpable in this work. While the uncertainty of the present moment feels, at times, utterly lonely, there is solace in communing with the past and in seeing ourselves in the broad scope of history. Liu has long held a commitment to this communion, and her work is marked by an underlying current of hope and an enduring belief in the resilience of the human spirit.
Hung Liu was born in Changchung China in 1948. She was affected by repeated hardships of the time – her mother’s experience in Japanese occupied Manchuria, surviving the Cultural Revolution, displacement to the Chinese Countryside – before ultimately emigrating to the United States in 1984.
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Hung Liu: The Sun Also Rises
Exhibition Dates: September 17 – November 14, 2020
Rena Bransten Gallery
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA 94107