In the East Wing, Goldfinch is excited to present “Purple Hearts for Virgin Wizards,” a solo exhibition by Detroit and Taiwan-based artist G.E. Liu, on view from Sunday, November 6th to Saturday, December 17. This is the artist’s first exhibition in Chicago.
Liu’s satirical compositions combine influences from the ancient past and the present with references as seemingly incompatible as cartoon hearts, meme-related motifs, and religious iconography. Through mythological world-building, the imagery in Liu’s work threads together parallels and divergences from Eastern and Western cultures, spinning layered and coded narratives infused with humor, sexuality, and self-deprecation. Although Liu’s use of flattened perspective borrows from classical Asian landscape renderings, her visual language incorporates contemporary tropes found in mass media and commercialism, from emojis to the wings and makeup reminiscent of Victoria’s Secret models. Her paintings on paper and on silk are balancing acts of opposites: of beauty and the grotesque; kitsch and prestige; levity and horror.
Harkening to her Taiwanese heritage, Liu’s use of silk lays a conceptual groundwork for the works’ investigations into complicated global and cultural relationships. As Liu explains, “Silk has a long history as a reverent material in the East, but the West’s consumerist invasion has redefined it through mass production, deeming it kitsch.” Similarly, as Liu puts it, the color-changing lights which border and illuminate several of the works on silk, “represent Taiwan’s position as the global leader in LED manufacturing, and remind me of night markets and local religious decoration.”
In “Purple Hearts for Virgin Wizards,” the theme of love as an epic quest is explored, satirized, and visualized through charts and cartoon-like figures which reappear in different forms and iterations throughout the work. “We are all celebrating this idea of ‘love’ as a concept of contemporary pop culture,” says Liu. “It can be extreme, temporary, and superficial, like the love that we often see on reality shows or hear in pop songs.” The worlds in Liu’s works, both beautiful and grotesque, show no signs of happy endings for the figures within them—or signs of endings at all. Instead, in an exploration of what she calls “the journey of love,” Liu pokes at cultural obsessions with love as a product and at the pursuit of love as a battle or contest to be won.
G.E. Liu (b. 1995) is Taiwanese artist based in Detroit. She received her BA from the National Kaohsiung Normal University, Taiwan and her MFA from Cranbrook University of Art, Michigan. She has had a recent solo exhibition at Louis Buhl & Co (Detroit), and has exhibited with Library Street Collective (Detroit). Recent group exhibitions include Basblue (Detroit), Wasserman Projects (Detroit), Trout Museum of Art (Wisconsin) and The Cultural Center in Taiwan.