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Incubator Gallery

Hung Liu: Living Memory


February 24 – June 16, 2024
Hung Liu, Scattered Seed II, 2015. Color lithograph with aluminum leaf on paper, 22 1/4 × 44 1/2 inches (56.a52 × 113.03 cm). Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of Turner Carroll Gallery and Hung Liu Studio; 2022.28.23© Hung Liu Estate/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Hung Liu, End of the Day to Weight, 2016

I paint from historical photographs of people; the majority of them had no name, no bio, no story left. Nothing. I feel they are kind of lost souls, spirit-ghosts. My painting is a memorial site for them.

Artist Hung Liu

Chinese-born American artist Hung Liu (Born in Changchun, China, 1948 – 2021) portrayed individuals who risked being forgotten in death as in life. As a child, Liu lived under the regime of Mao Zedong, who led the Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976), a turbulent period of political and social upheaval in the People’s Republic of China. It was during this time that Liu realized photography’s significance when she witnessed her mother burn cherished family photographs, or otherwise risk persecution for being “bourgeois,” or not working class.

As an adult, Liu immigrated to the United States, where she focused on the photographs of the Chinese people who came before her. By manipulating and recontextualizing found images by dripping, splattering, and layering materials, Liu blurred the lines between representation and abstraction and probed photography’s role in shaping collective memory.

Hung Liu: Living Memory explores the artist’s ability to bridge past and present by manipulating the threads of visual memory. Her sensitive portraits illuminate what it means to be Chinese, to be American, and to be a woman. These testimonials make visible the faces of the forgotten. Liu’s portraits remind us that memory is not merely a repository of the past; it is a dynamic force that inflects the past, informs the present, and shapes our future, forging our sense of self while connecting us to the greater human consciousness.

TOP IMAGE: Hung Liu, Scattered Seed II (detail), 2015. Color lithograph with aluminum leaf, 22 1/4 × 44 1/2 inches (56.52 × 113.03 cm). Gift of Turner Carroll Gallery and Hung Liu Studio; 2022.28.23. © Hung Liu Estate/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.


Hung Liu: Living Memory is made possible by Ruth (A.B.’81, P’11) and John Caccavale (A.B.’81, P’11); and the Sunny Rosenberg Endowment Fund.

Duke Student co-curators
Duke Student co-curators FAR BACK: Bailes New. FRONT, FROM LEFT: Madeleine Reinhard, Elayna Lei, Eliza Henne and Nicole Kagan. Photo by Cornell Watson.

This exhibition was created through the Curatorial Practicum: Development and Design course, taught by Ellen C. Raimond, Associate Curator of Academic Initiatives, in the Museum Theory & Practice Concentration.The student co-curators, all part of Duke’s Class of 2024, are Eliza Henne, Nicole Kagan, Elayna Lei, Bailes New and Madeleine Reinhard.


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