As Liu’s third solo gallery exhibition appropriately titled “Dawn Blossoms Plucked at Dusk” which references the idea of remembering one’s youth, possibly from an elder’s perspective, it is presented by Walter Maciel Gallery from October 29th through to December 22nd, 2011. A popular subject in these works is the portrayal of children shown innocently at play in the natural landscape. The real magic begins with the transfer from the photograph into an oil painting where Liu makes distinctions between the foreground and background.
In the painting Band of Brothers, a group of eight youngsters are depicted in colorful swim trunks on a river bank. Their laughter and playful expression reveals a freedom to explore adolescence without the maturity and knowledge of truly understanding the hardship and limitation imposed on their families. Liu captures a precious moment with some of the boys coyly posing for the camera while others are caught in mid-giggle with forceful body gestures. Another painting entitled Dragonflies depicts a young girl flanked by two young boys against a mountainous background. They pose for their picture with large smiles as they carry baskets of collected items from the farm.The joyous images are juxtaposed with two large paintings that are based on 1950s propaganda posters using comical characters as interpretations of the unified Communist life.
One painting entitled Hi Ho (Ayou Hou) shows multiple rows of visual information: the first depicts an infant girl unsuccessfully pulling out an oversized radish from the ground, the second shows the same girl with five helpers linked to one another straining to pull the radish now surfacing above ground and the third shows the happy toddlers sitting proudly with the entire radish at their sides. The work is strengthened by a group of silver and gold duotone works done with layers of resin, digital imagery and paint. The resin works function as a nice balance between the realness of the photographs and the fantasy of the oil paintings. In effect, Liu turns her old photographs into fresh paintings, relieving the rigid strains of socialist realism – the style in which she was trained under Communist China- as an improvisational painting style that dissolves the photo-realism of propaganda art into a fresh kind of history painting. She converts socialist realism into social realism.
In conjunction with the large paintings, a series of smaller portraits done on raw linen without gesso will be on view and the subjects include more children and an old woman. These paintings take on the appearance of enlarged oil pastels with areas of light created from generous applications of white paint.
Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948 and immigrated to the US In 1984. She attended Beijing Teachers College in 1975 and studied mural painting as a graduate student at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. She is a class of ’86 alumna of the University of California, San Diego where she received an MFA in the Visual Arts Program. She studied with Allan Kaprow who became a lifelong friend and mentor.
Born and raised under the Mao Regime, Liu’s life was adversely affected by the controversial Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. After graduating from high school in 1968, she was sent to the countryside to live among peasants where she was obliged to work daily in the rice and wheat fields for more than four years. A friend gave Liu a camera for safe keeping and she began to photograph portraits of local farmers and their families. Her new paintings are depicted using these images as reference and rendered into her signature painterly style with areas of heavily applied pigment balanced with thin washes. The use of her personal photography distinguishes this series from other bodies of work that have mostly been informed by found and often historical photographs. The paintings will be presented with some of the actual small format black and white photographs that were recently developed and retouched in the past three years.
Liu currently lives and works in Oakland and is a professor in the art department at Mills College. Her work is included in many major museum collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Dallas Museum of Art, de Young Museum and the Oakland Museum of California. Liu was awarded a 160 foot glass window public art commission at the Oakland International Airport in 2005 followed by a large public commission painting at the San Francisco International Airport in 2008. Earlier this year she was the recipient of the SGC International 2011 Award for Lifetime Achievement in Printmaking. The Lifetime Achievement Award is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the professional development of printmaking as a fine art.
Courtesty of the artist and Walter Maciel Gallery
For more information, please visit http://www.waltermacielgallery.com/exhibitions.html