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Missing Parts

   Associated images:

Hung Liu

Chinese, Born 1948

Missing Parts 1992
Master printer - Joan Hall
Woodcut from one block, photograph, Plexiglas
Handmade paper, Japanese paper
48"h x 82"w
Ed. 16
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When Hung Liu was invited to the Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop in St. Louis in 1992, she was the first artist whose visit and work were sponsored by the Women’s Society of Washington University. (1)The support of the Women’s Society was an important boost to the program because it enabled the print shop to use better materials, and made it possible for the artists to receive an honorarium. These two factors, combined with the shop’s growing reputation for excellence, were instrumental in attracting artists who may not otherwise have considered working at WUCPW. Notably, Island Press founder and Director Peter Marcus remarked, "without the Women’s Society we wouldn’t have done some of the most interesting prints that we have ever done."(2)

Hung Liu was born in China, educated in Beijing, and "re-educated" during the Cultural Revolution when she was sent away from her parents and into the countryside. Upon her return to Beijing, she taught painting at the Central Academy of Fine Art where social realism was the official (and the only) style that instructors could teach. Photography was considered subversive, and indeed, many of Hung Liu’s photographs of her immediate family were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.

Hung Liu came to the United States in 1984. She made five prints while she was in St. Louis in 1992. When Liu printed with Kevin Garber, the works were standard sizes (approximately 20 x 30 inches), but Missing Parts, the print that she made with Joan Hall at Hall’s urging, was very large – 40 x 82 inches. Unlike Liu’s other works produced at WUCPW, Missing Parts was also done on handmade paper produced in Hall’s studio.(3) Missing Parts depicts traditional Chinese facial features, similar to the figural styles that Hung Liu had to teach when she was in Beijing. In the center of the composition is a photographic image of a 2000-year-old jade burial suit. By combining images of codified facial types with photography, a medium forbidden to her in her homeland, Liu was openly referencing the issues that she was forced to avoid as an artist working in China.(4)

Marilyn Kushner
Curator and Chair of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
Brooklyn Museum of Art
1 Island Press was originally known as the Washington University Collaborative Printmaking Workshop until the name was changed in 1996. The Women’s Society of Washington University has sponsored the following artists at WUCPW: Jody Pinto, Spring 1993; Frida Baranek, Spring 1994; Jaune Quick-to-See-Smith, Spring 1995; Rocky Toner, Spring 1996; Joyce Scott and Elizabeth Talford Scott, Fall 1996, Spring 1997, Fall 1998; and Susan Shie and James Acord, Fall 1999.
2 Peter Marcus to the author, 11 November 2001.
3 The paper was made in Hall’s personal studio because Island Press did not yet have facilities dedicated to producing handmade paper. (Liu’s was the first WUCPW print made entirely on handmade paper produced by the shop.) Hall later posited that perhaps handmade paper was used for this print because it was a woodcut, which lent itself to the use of handmade papers. A lithography stone would have cracked if those papers were used on it. (Joan Hall to the author, 19 May 2002, notations on manuscript.)
4 The idea of phrenology, a theory that physical facial types had a direct relationship to personality types, was very popular in western thinking in the 19th century. While Hung Liu was not necessarily addressing the idea of phrenology in her print, she did talk at length about it while she was making the print. (Letter from Maryanne Ellison Simmons to David Kiehl, 7 February 2001, Island Press Archives, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.)