Interview with Huntz Liu for ‘Strata’

Thinkspace Projects presents Huntz Liu’s latest solo exhibition, ‘Strata.’  

The exhibition features his signature techniques of cutting and layering paper, where he crafts a collection of work that explores depth in a striking way. Each composition is comprised of meticulously cut shapes on different planes, reveling in both the layering of material and the absence of material. By embracing negative space, Liu creates line and shadow, building an image that is so much more than each of its individual parts. The compositions strive for a perfect balance, embracing the chaos of the shapes and colors. As Liu describes it, “this is a reflection of the perfect sphere we live upon and the chaos of the layers confined within.”

In anticipation of ‘Strata,” our interview with Huntz Liu explores our relationship with space, the perspective gained from cataloging art books at the Getty Research center and letting go of perfectionism.

What techniques or themes were you exploring in this latest body of work?

The idea of distance and space was in the forefront of my mind during the pandemic and is a theme present in this new body of work. I was interested in the different scales of distance constantly present – be it the personal, interpersonal, geographical, galactical, etc. This is sort of illustrated in the Eames’ “Powers of Ten” short film, but additionally, I like how the space a distance occupies is its own layer that can have its own distance from others. (e.g. The Pacific Ocean is the space and distance between Asia and North America, but North America is the space and distance between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.)

Where did the inspiration for the title of the show come from? 

It is related to the prior answer but more focused on the layers (or strata) present within our cities and countries and planet. “Strata” is also the word for “loss” in Polish, which seems appropriate for this past year and right now.

You’ve shared that you source a lot of inspiration from architecture and interior spaces. Do you have any favorite buildings or architectural spaces?

I believe I answered the Salk Institute and the Getty Center last time… which still hold true. But more generally, I love big, expansive, monumental spaces. 

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into creative flow? How do you structure your time and days while preparing for an exhibition?

Just a morning coffee. And afternoon coffee. And sometimes an evening coffee. And work breaks dispersed in between. haha

The time you spent at the Getty Research Institute helped provide a second education and define your work, what is one of the lasting lessons you learned from that experience?

I saw a lot of work and artist books in their special collections’ vaults, which made me realize the breadth and range of art that has been, is, and will be created. And that however disheartening and challenging it is to find your own voice and make your own space, there is a lightness and freedom in being just a singular artist making work in a singular time. 

You did some international travel during the pandemic. Can you share a bit about the experience? How did you pass the time during the quarantine period?

Yeah, I did have the privilege, as a dual-citizen, to travel to Taiwan (where it was largely free of Covid) for some months toward the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. It was a nice respite from the madness taking place in the US, and gave me some breathing room to focus on work.

How many Exacto blades do you go through in one piece? What is your favorite paper brand, weight?

It varies, but anywhere from a couple to a dozen. I use many different brands of paper and weights, but I like Strathmore bristol paper and some Mohawk lines.

The precision in your work is mesmerizing, would you consider yourself a perfectionist? If so, how has perfectionism helped you? How has it possibly hindered you, and do you have any advice for other perfectionists? 

Being a perfectionist was something I would refer to myself as when I was younger. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I feel that the label and the practice of being perfect is sort of just loaded and unrealistic. You have to let go at some point because the space between precise and perfect is infinite.

What is one of your most memorable meals, it could be the people or the food? 

More recently, it was having brunch at Zinc Cafe in Arts District, March of 2020, right on the cusp of shutdown… wondering if it was a good idea and also not realizing it would be the last time dining in for a long long while. I would have tried to enjoy it more in hindsight.

If cost and time were not an issue, what would be a dream project for you?

I would love to build my work at a huge scale, horizontally into the ground. Like Noguchi’s playgrounds.

Are your hands callous from accidental paper cuts yet?  

Surprisingly, no!

Who are the last three musical artists you listened to? Or the last podcast episode you recommended to someone

On a Britpop bender these days: Suede, Longpigs, Pulp 

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