Hung Liu (Chinese/American, b. 1948)
Silk Road, 1989/A Triptych
Unsigned, identified on labels affixed to the backing.
Oil and graphite on canvas with silkscreen on silk collage, left and center panel 80 x 52 in. (203.2 x 132.1 cm), right panel 80 x 24 in. (203.2 x 61.0 cm), unframed.
Condition: Subtle canvas deformations.
Provenance: Through Nahan Contemporary Gallery, New York.
N.B. Hung Liu grew up under the Maoist "Cultural Revolution," where she was trained to paint murals in the Socialist Realist tradition. After having completed fine art degrees in Beijing, she immigrated to the United States to obtain her MFA at the University of California, San Diego.
Hung Liu's works, which take on the large scale of both mural and history paintings, are personal in content but necessarily informed by politics. Her works engage with the idea of repressed individual expression under the Communist regime, but also explore the power of images as icons. They frequently depict Chinese countrymen and women (based on historical photographic portraits) against an abstracted background which allows her to show relationships between the past and present synoptically.
Hung Liu spent time in the Gobi Desert along the Silk Road while studying the devotional and monumental Buddhist murals at Dunhuang, and was deeply influenced by the early art she saw and the local history. (1) In the present work, the image of a woman holding a fan in a sedan chair is "twice-removed" in that she is a silkscreen from a photograph. In this way, the truth-value of the photograph is diluted, making the image function more as a memory than a presence. The silk that the silkscreen is printed on calls attention to the work's own manufacture but also lends realism to the silk robe in the background, evoking the history of the silk trade and alluding to possible transgressions along it.
(1) Lippard, Lucy R. Mixed Blessings: New Art in a Multicultural America. New York: Pantheon Books, 1990, p. 144.
Minor surface grime to l.c. of left panel, no additional condition issues to report.
When the three panels are hung together with sides abutting, the finished size of the work is 80 x 128 inches.