Using a straightedge and knife, Huntz Liu cuts and layers paper to expose geometric/abstract compositions. These compositions are made up of shapes that sit on different planes, creating literal depth, while the composition itself creates a perceived depth. It is this intersection of the literal and perceived that informs the work; where the absence of material reveals form and the casting of shadow creates lines. Furthering his work, Liu has incorporated recent study of the collision between imaginary space and real space, playing particularly with shadow.
Our interview with Huntz Liu reveals the curatorial aspect of his creative process, his personal foundation, and the artist’s most recent art adventure.
You have 19 pieces in the show that were carefully selected for this exhibition. How many pieces lay in your studio unfit for showing, and why were they cut?
About 6 pieces were left out. While creating, an evolution occurs in the work that either binds or separates from the theme of the exhibition. The ones that deviate are left out. It’s similar to a musician writing songs for an album. Oftentimes, fully realized and beautiful tracks are left out for not fitting the identity/concept/sound of the album (see: “Ship in a Bottle” left off of Beck’s Sea Change).
You created two figures with faces in this exhibition, Dylan and Joy. Could you provide more insight into what inspired this evolution?
It was a bit cathartic to break from full abstraction with some of the work in this show. I wanted to see what that will open up and what the work will be harbingers of in the future. Interestingly, while creating these pieces, I felt an immediate shift in my relationship with the work and the process. Again, back to music analogies, it felt like adding lyrics/vocals to what has been strictly instrumental music.
Are there other artists who work with paper that you admire and we should know about?
Kara Walker… Thomas Demand.
What brings you back to your work and studio after an extremely difficult day or streak while working on a piece? Have you ever wanted to throw in the exacto knife?
Haha nice. In these moments, I lean on the routine and discipline that I have built and fostered over the years. They are a good foundation to bury beneath all the reasons to quit and to lay upon all reasons to keep going.
Coffee is pretty essential to your creative process. Do you have a favorite brand and preparation?
My daily driver is Dunkin’ Donuts original blend. My weekend fancy goto is Stumptown beans. Both with a standard drip machine.
Is there a movie, documentary, or book that you feel illustrates and reflects what the creative process feels like for you?
I watched the 1998 Cuaron-directed Great Expectations in the theater when it was released, and it has since been an odd source of insight into the art world and being an artist.
Do you or did you ever find it difficult to refer to yourself as an artist? What does being an artist mean through your personal cultural lens?
“Artist” and “art” are two of the most loaded labels in our lexicon… so, yes, I sometimes find it difficult to refer to myself as an artist, though it’s the easiest word to use. Artists really are just conduits for the work (where the meaning should exist).
You’ve traveled to many places and visited many museums, can you tell us a few of your favorite institutions of art and exhibitions?
I recently traveled to Houston, an underrated city for art. There’s the Menil Collection, which houses a lot of impressive Surrealist work. A standalone building that’s part of the Menil Collection, houses the Cy Twombly Gallery (one of my favorite painters). The Rothko Chapel nearby is Mark Rothko’s magnum opus, where he in a welcomed heavy-handed manner, shows you how he wants his work to be experienced. The new Kinder building at the MFAH is also great, both inside and out.
You’ve shared that you let go of the idea of perfectionism, acknowledging that you need to let go at some point because the space between precise and perfect is infinite. It’s a very philosophical reflection; what has been your biggest insight gathered from this past year? Or a rumination that has become more clear to you over this last year.
I read about “Postel’s Law” in a design book that is actually a principle from software development that states: “be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept.” In a programming context, it essentially means being specific in output but flexible when receiving input (e.g. date & phone number formatting). I have, however, been using it as a loose guiding principle in my life as a reminder to be more intentional and consistent in my actions/work/values, and being more open/accepting of others in whatever capacity they present themselves.
Exhibitions on view October 29 – November 19, 2022