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Hung Liu: American Exodus

April 1 – August 12, 2017

Friends, Colorado Galleries

Hung Liu: American Exodus presents new work by Hung Liu (Chinese, b. 1948) that are inspired by the Dust Bowl era photographs of American documentary photographer Dorothea Lange (American, 1895-1965). Liu is well-known for her use of historic photographic collections of various Chinese subjects, ranging from prostitutes to old family pictures, as source material. In American Exodus, Liu draws her attention to Lange’s Great Depression images made under the Farm Security Administration and archived at the Oakland Museum of California, where Liu lives. Lange’s intimate and compassionate depiction of Americans in distress in the Great Plains during the 1930s and 1940s resonated with Liu. In her earlier work, Liu explored the struggles of the people in her own country of China who were displaced by political or natural forces. It is here that Liu’s work with Lange’s photographs converge in an exploration of the universality of human dignity and strength.

As a student in China, Liu was trained as a Social Realist painter. It was not until she immigrated to the US in 1984 that she was introduced to the idea that the role of the artist is to experiment and innovate. Her painterly style has developed as a method of challenging the documentary nature of photography. For her the process of painting is expressed through washes of color on raw cotton duck canvas and drips of paint that dissolve the image while simultaneously preserving it. The image as a historic record erodes into memory – personal, cultural, societal, universal.

Liu’s selection of Lange’s images to work from range from the iconic Migrant Mother – the image that has come to represent the Great Depression – Bindlestiffs (migrant single men), women and children in camps, and an Oklahoma family on the road all of which take on the breadth of dire experience and the depth of despair.

Hung Liu has an extensive international exhibition history and is represented in major museum collections nationwide. The UW Art Museum presented her work in Hung Liu and Rene Yung: The Vanishing, Re-presenting the Chinese in the American West (2006) for which Liu used photographic references of the Chinese in Wyoming from the American Heritage Center. She was born in Changhun, China and lived through war and famine of the Maoist era before immigrating to the US. She is represented by Nancy Hoffman Gallery, New York City.

  • Lunchtime Conversations with Curators, 4/5, 12 – 12:30pm, University of Wyoming Art Museum Galleries
  • Public Artist Talk, 4/17, 7:00 – 8:00pm, University of Wyoming Visual Arts Building, Room 111
  • Gallery Walk-through, 4/18, 10:30 – 11:30am, University of Wyoming Art Museum Galleries
  • Funded by Ron and Patti Salvagio Endowment for Excellence in Programs, WAC, UW Art Museum Gala Funds, and Wyoming Public Radio


Hung Liu discusses her work in American Exodus which is based on the Dust bowl era photographs by American photographer Dorothea Lange.


Left: Hung Liu (Chinese/American, b. 1948), Migrant Mother, 2015, oil on canvas, 66 x 66 inches, courtesy of the artist

Right: Hung Liu (Chinese/American, b. 1948), Working Man #3, 2016, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 inches, courtesy of the artist 

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