Summoning Ghosts

Photo of artist Hung Liu displayed at the Oakland Museum of California.
Photo of artist Hung Liu displayed at the Oakland Museum of California.

Recently, I purchased Powerball lottery tickets when the jackpot was close to $600 million dollars.  Only one of the tickets matched a number, resulting in a $4 dollar return.  Not enough to purchase a beautiful Hung Liu painting but perhaps in another life.  As a result, the next best option was to visit the artist’s retrospective at the Oakland Art Museum currently on display until June 30th, 2013.

According to the Oakland Art Museum’s website: “The exhibition Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu is the first comprehensive survey of the artwork of Hung Liu—one of the most prominent Chinese painters working in the United States today.  Featuring approximately 80 paintings, as well as personal ephemera such as photographs, sketch books, and informal painting studies from private and public collections around the world, the exhibition celebrates Liu’s career accomplishments and includes work completed in China before the artist arrived in the U.S.  The exhibition explores the evolution of Liu’s artistic practice, and investigates the complex interactions between individual memory and history, and documentary evidence and artistic expression, among other themes.”

Last week Tuesday, “tried” to visit the exhibit.  However, the Oakland Art Museum was closed.  Yes, I should have doubled checked (eye roll).  Also, the unfriendly parking attendant wanted me to pay the $2.50 parking charge for being there for only 11 minutes and yelled at me to drive throughout the entire garage to leave.  BTW, the garage didn’t take credit cards and the total change found in my truck totaled $2.21.  The parking attendant took it and told me to leave.  As a result, my exhibit viewing was delayed, left highly irritated, and tried to summon my inner restraint to keep calm.

Not wanting to give up, I made another journey to the museum on Thursday.  Second try was a success to view the amazing exhibit.  The space was packed with various groups of young students sitting on the floor in front of specific paintings intently listening to a teacher or curator.  It was wonderful to see a new generation being exposed to an important and influential artist.

Unable to take photos inside, I was able to take images outside of glass doors looking in and of an interesting gigantic video installation that greets visitors.

A peak of the exhibit through its doors...
A peak inside…
Part of a large video installation...
Part of a large video installation.

After the exhibit, made my way into the gift store to view creative trinkets, gadgets, and books.  Fortunately, didn’t have to purchase an exhibition catalog from the Museum.  The Kala Art Institute in Berkeley had an auction recently featuring a signed book donated by Hung Liu.  Luckily, won the bid since a painting of hers would have to include a massive infusion into my bank account.  The book goes into depth about Liu’s process and the pieces included at the museum.

Hung Liu signed book
Hung Liu signed book…

On the way to the parking garage, I noticed Hung Liu texting away on her phone.  Visitors were walking pass her discussing their “expert” opinions not knowing the artist was present.  She stood stoically and silently in a shadowy corner like a ghost.

In the shadows, artist Hung Liu.
In the shadows, artist Hung Liu.

Going back the second time to view the exhibit despite its challenges justified the time and effort.  It was wonderful to see the artist being present, the thoughtfulness of the piece’s placement, and engaging dialogue created within the retrospective.  According to Liu: “History that repeats and forgets itself…”  Fortunately, her art leaves a lasting impression that is worth revisiting.  Overall, left feeling like I won an unforgettable visual feast for my mind…

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2 thoughts on “Summoning Ghosts

  1. Really great post. Haven’t been yet but saw the show of her work at Mills College and went to a talk by her there one evening. She was so funny, so honest and unpretentious that I, and the whole audience were completely bowled over. Since then I’ve met a few students from Mills who were taught by her. They love her work and they love her. She is very influential I think, and I can’t wait to see the Oakland show too.

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