“The story of America as a destination for the homeless and hungry of the world is not only a myth. It is a story of desperation, of sadness, of uncertainty, of leaving your home. It is also a story of determination, and—more than anything—of hope.” Hung Liu, 2017
Hung Liu (b. 1948) is a contemporary Chinese American artist, whose multilayered paintings have established new frameworks for understanding portraiture in relation to time, memory, and history. Often sourcing her subjects from photographs, Liu elevates overlooked individuals by amplifying the stories of those who have historically been invisible or unheard. Having lived through war, political revolution, exile, and displacement, she offers a complex picture of an Asian Pacific American experience. Her portraits speak powerfully to those seeking a better life, in the United States and elsewhere. Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands will be the artist’s first major exhibition on the East Coast. This is also the first time that a museum will focus on Liu’s portraiture.
Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands The National Portrait Gallery’s accompanying exhibition catalogue, published in association with Yale University Press (2021), charts six decades of Liu’s painting, photography, and drawing. Author Dorothy Moss illuminates the importance of family photographs in Liu’s work; Nancy Lim examines the origins of Liu’s artistic practice; Lucy R. Lippard explores issues of identity and multiculturalism; and Elizabeth Partridge focuses on Liu’s recent series based on Dorothea Lange’s Depression-era photographs. Philip Tinari, along with artists Amy Sherald and Carrie Mae Weems, among others, conveys Liu’s impact on contemporary art.
Dorothy Moss is curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery and coordinating curator of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.