Untitled (from “Seven Poses”) 2005

Hung Liu, Untitled (from “Seven Poses”), 2005; Gift of the Greater Kansas City Area Committee of NMWA

Hung Liu, Untitled (from “Seven Poses”), 2005; Gift of the Greater Kansas City Area Committee of NMWA

Hung Liu’s print series Seven Poses” replicates the distinctive, layered complexity of her paintings.

Liu’s works are most often based on 19th- and 20th-century photographs taken in China by commercial photographers or foreign tourists.  In “Seven Poses,” she presents images of Chinese prostitutes. She seeks to honor these women by exposing their severely circumscribed “place” in pre-revolutionary China.

Prized for their beauty and the physical pleasure they might bring, the women represented in this series function as decorative elements within the works. They are equivalent to the numerous other motifs Liu incorporates into the prints—animals, birds, insects, flowers, and human figures from Chinese painting, as well as from ancient vessels and 19th-century snuff bottles.

The prints also reproduce Liu’s signature washes of color and calligraphic brushstrokes, which draw attention to the fact that she has modified and recontextualized her photographic source images. In this way, she demonstrates how an image can become a generic (and sometimes misunderstood) sign for a culture once background information is lost.