Hung Liu: Offerings

When 23 Jan 2013 - 17 Mar 2013
Where Mills College Art Museum
5000 MacArthur Blvd.
Oakland, CA 94613
United States
Enquiry 510.430.2164
Hung Liu, RED AND WHITE, 1993, Oil on shaped canvas, 107 x 140 inches. Courtesy of the artist

January 23–March 17 2013

Press Release:

Hung Liu: Offerings presents a rare opportunity to experience two of the Oakland-based artist’s most significant large-scale installations: Jiu Jin Shan (Old Gold Mountain) (1994) and Tai Cang—Great Granary (2008).

Recognized as America’s most important Chinese artist, Hung Liu’s installations have played an important role in her work throughout her career. Hung Liu: Offerings examines the themes of memory, history, and cultural identity through works that navigate the complex journey of immigration and returning home. Accompanied by related paintings and prints, Jiu Jin Shan and Tai Cang serve as memorials to the past while acknowledging the rapidly changing cultural dynamics in contemporary China.

In Jiu Jin Shan (Old Gold Mountain), over two hundred thousand fortune cookies create a symbolic gold mountain that engulfs a crossroads of railroad tracks running beneath. The junction where the tracks meet serves as both a crossroad and a terminus, a visual metaphor of the cultural intersection of East and West as well as the end of dreams of many Chinese immigrants who perished during the building of the Sierra Nevada section of the transcontinental railroad. Liu references not only the history of the Chinese laborers who built the railroads to support the West Coast Gold Rush, but also the specific history of San Francisco. The city was named Old Gold Mountain by the Chinese migrant workers in the nineteenth century as an expression of the hope, shared with so many other new arrivals, to find material prosperity in the new world. Individually, the fortune cookies become a substitute for gold nuggets while together they represent the traditional Chinese burial mounds of Liu’s Manchurian relatives.

This exhibition will be the first time that Tai Cang—Great Granary has been presented in the United States. Tai Cang—Great Granary consists of two major components; the first is a reinterpretation of an early mural Liu painted while in graduate school in China that was destroyed when the school’s property was sold and demolished. Liu’s reconstructed mural, Music of the Great Earth II, uses digital images from the destroyed original overlaid with new elements pulled from the artist’s body of work. The second part of the installation consists of a selection of 34 antique dou, a traditional Chinese food container and unit of measure. Each dou contains a grain, cereal, or bean from a different region of China. The country is composed of 34 provinces and special administrative or autonomous regions, and Liu arranged the vessels to form a map of China on the gallery floor. In revisiting Music of the Great Earth, Liu is not attempting to faithfully recreate the lost mural, but rather, to examine her passage between past and present and the ways distance and time both inform and change perspectives.

Born in Changchun, China, in 1948, a year before the creation of the People’s Republic of China, Hung Liu lived through Maoist China and experienced the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. Trained as a socialist realist painter and muralist, she came to the United States in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego, where she received her MFA. One of the first people from mainland China to study abroad and pursue an art career, she moved to northern California to become a faculty member at Mills College in 1990, and has continued to live and work in the Bay Area. She has exhibited internationally at premier museums and galleries, and her work resides in prestigious private and institutional collections around the world. Hung Liu currently lives in Oakland and is a tenured professor in the art department at Mills College.
The exhibition is planned in conjunction with the Oakland Museum of California’s retrospective Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu. It is accompanied by an exhibition brochure and map of Hung Liu’s permanent public art pieces in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hung Liu: Offerings is supported by the Agnes Cowles Bourne Fund for Special Exhibitions and the Helzel Family Foundation.

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