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Retiring and remembered: Hung Liu

Widely recognized as America’s most important Chinese artist, Hung Liu currently lives in Oakland and is a tenured professor in the art department at Mills College.

(Courtesy of Hung Liu)
(Courtesy of Hung Liu)

As a renowned figure in the Bay Area art scene, Hung has had quite a year with a retrospective at the Oakland Museum of California, an installation-heavy exhibition at Mills College’s very own Art Museum, and another summer exhibition queued up at the San Jose Art Museum.

It’s no wonder that many of the programs and events she is involved with this year are stating that it’s the Spring of Hung.

Born in Changchun, China in 1948, a year before the creation of the People’s Republic of China, Hung lived through Maoist China and experienced the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

She was trained as a social realist painter and muralist, and came to the United States in 1984 with a full scholarship to University of California, San Diego. She was one of the first people from mainland China to study abroad and pursue an art career.

Even with her extensive travels and worldwide exhibitions, teaching continues to be an essential part of Hung’s life and it’s no surprise as she comes from a long line of educators.

And though Hung had planned to retire this year, she will be returning in the fall to teach Advanced Painting before she permanently retires to focus on her studio practice.

Hung was pursuing her MFA when she first met Dr. Moira Roth, Trefethen Professor of Art History at Mills College, as well as the late and great Allan Kaprow, who were both faculty members of  UC San Diego’s art department.

It’s no coincidence that her journey is omnipresent in her body of work, as it represents a confluence of history, culture, and identity as a multicultural artist.

By examining themes of memory, history, and cultural identity through mediums of painting and installation, Hung’s works often explore the complex journey of immigration and returning home.

Hung has exhibited internationally at several renowned  museums and galleries, and her work resides in prestigious private and institutional collections around the world, yet Hung is humble and grounded and still calls Mills College and Oakland her home.