Hung Liu: Catchers

The exhibition showcases Liu’s most recent paintings, primarily of children, inspired by Dorothea Lange’s Dust Bowl-era photography. Liu’s paintings depict children growing up during hard times, struggling to safeguard the joy and innocence of childhood. Though barely able to care for themselves, these children find the compassion to care for each other and for animals. Liu’s exhibition title alludes to her memory of a book she read 50 years prior when she was a student in China–Catcher in the Rye. Like “Catcher” in Salinger’s novel, it is the idealistic child who tries to keep society from falling off the edge into oblivion, both literally and metaphorically.

Hung Liu is no stranger to the loss of childhood. She endured forced “re-education” working 364 days/year in the wheat fields of the Chinese countryside during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Her own father was placed in prison for fighting against the communists, and her mother destroyed their family photographs to protect them from retaliation. Hung met her father for the first time when she was 46, shortly before he died. Because her own family had been taken from her, Hung has devoted her artistic career to collecting photographs of dispossessed people such as these children, memorializing her adopted “family” in her paintings.

This major exhibition of Liu’s paintings at Turner Carroll foreshadows two highly anticipated Hung Liu retrospective exhibitions at the Ullens Art Center in Beijing (2019), and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery (2021).