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Hung Liu
Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco
by Cherie Louise Turner


Continuing through January 12, 2013


Oakland-based artist Hung Liu presents large- to mural-size (the grandest being 96 x 160 inches) paintings and a series of prints that delve into her childhood in China. In this body of work, a series of figurative narratives, presented in a cartoon-like style that is not unlike those found in the works of Jonathan Bankston. People are outlined in black and wearing solidly colored clothing, with minimal line-work or shading to add volume. This similarity with children's book illustration serves to emphasize the focus on childhood. 


And indeed, the work is directly inspired by Chinese picture books, called xiaorenshu: propaganda promoting the "happy and gay" socialist life. Themes touched on include manual labor, farm work, parenting, factory work, play, and study. Liu also incorporates the red star of China in several of the works. But of course, the twist is that Liu has freely created these pieces (unlike the artists who created the originals) —carefully painted in bright, delightful colors — far away from the place depicted, bringing to doubt just how “happy and gay” the life there actually is. 

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