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 Xiaodong Liu  (1963 - )

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Lived/Active: New York / Asia/China      Known for: vivid portraits, figure and genre of everyday life in China

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following text is from The Wall Street Journal, January 21, 2011.  It references an exhibition, "Hometown", in the Ullen's Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, China, January and February 2011.

"A Chinese Hometown Boy Makes Good: Liu Ixaodong, a star of the contemporary-art market, returns to the factory town of his childhood"

by Alexandra A. Seno

Liu Xiaodong makes intimate portraits to convey big stories about China.

In recent years, Mr. Liu has become a star of the contemporary-art market, where his vivid portraits and depictions of everyday life in China have attracted major collectors. In April 2008, an Asian buyer paid $7.9 million at Sotheby's for Mr. Liu's Battlefield Realism: The Eighteen Arhats.  The work consists of nine pairs of portraits showing visiting front-line soldiers serving along a sea lane where Taiwan and mainland China continue to point missiles at each other.  Last September, all of his 17 canvases on offer at "Yan' Guan Town," an exhibit at New York's Mary Boone Gallery, sold at prices between $75,000 and $800,000.

"I have been painting for over 30 years, but I feel that I have just started," said the artist, whose works are making their way to American institutions such as Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and San Francisco's Asian Art Museum. "I have a very clear idea of what my paintings should be." The 47-year-old Mr. Liu then returned to his cigarette and shot-glass-size cups of steaming gongfu tea.

Mr. Liu has returned to his roots for "Hometown Boy," his solo exhibition at Beijing's privately run Ullens Center for Contemporary Art.  The show, up through Feb. 20, is the result of three months that Mr. Liu spent in 2009 and 2010 revisiting his hometown of Jincheng.  In 1980, he left the rough factory town in the northeastern Liaoning Province to attend Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts, where he's now a professor.

"Hometown Boy" showcases Mr. Liu's signature style, with 20 figurative paintings depicting the sleepy town. The state-owned paper mill that was once the lifeblood of Jincheng has long been shut, a casualty of China's economic reforms. Mr. Liu's subjects include childhood friends and the small apartment where he grew up. One of the portraits, Shu Jun With His Chubby Son, features an old friend who served a jail sentence for petty crime, then became a father when he was in his 50s.

The artist is also displaying some of the diary entries and photographs that he made in the process, and a 62-minute documentary about the project is showing continuously at the museum. Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan's foremost art-house filmmaker, directed the film.

Traveling, filming and "eating, drinking and hanging out with his subjects" expand Mr. Liu's style into a mix that draws on performance and installation art, writes Alexandra Munroe, the curator of Asian art at New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, in the "Hometown" exhibit catalog.

The catalog's cover features Bent Rib, Mr. Liu's favorite of the "Hometown Boy" paintings, which he owns and he says has no plans to sell.  The 59-by-55-inch canvas depicts two of his friends looking at an X-ray.

"China has become so materialistic, many have lost their heart and soul.  It is like looking at an X-ray, you can't see the heart and there is nothing inside," Mr. Liu says.

Until Feb. 12, Americans can see a 75-square-foot acrylic-on-paper painting by Mr. Liu, part of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts' "Fresh Ink" exhibit.  The group show features pieces commissioned from 10 of the biggest names in Chinese contemporary art. Mr. Liu's contribution, completed in 2008, is made up of nine portraits of Boston-area high-school students, all on a single scroll.

One of China's most important female artists, Yu Hong, who married Mr. Liu in 1993 when they lived in New York, is also part of the show.  They met as teenagers in Beijing when they were both students at the city's fine-arts academy.

Wa, their 16-year-old daughter, was born when the couple returned to China.  She hopes to study studio art at Yale University someday, her father says. "I tried to discourage her from wanting to be an artist, but she has made up her mind," says Mr. Liu, who worries about her choice.

"It is so hard to be an artist," he says. "Even if the market recognizes you, you are never satisfied. You are never happy because you are always chasing an ideal."

Source:
The Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703954004576090423141831848.html?KEYWORDS=liu+xiaodong


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