Pixy Liao's photographic practice is defined by a bright, colourful palette and careful staging. Her works frequently involve the human figure, as seen in her 'Experimental Relationship' series (2007–ongoing), which captured the artist with her boyfriend, Moro. The couple stages themselves in a range of intimate poses, including Moro draped over Liao's shoulders (It's Never Been Easy to Carry You, 2013) or lying across her lap submissively, baring his behind to her looming hand while she stares at the camera in a defiant manner (Ass Drumming, 2015).Read More
Upending gender roles to question heteronormative relationships, Liao started 'Experimental Relationship' during her MFA in Photography at the University of Memphis, where she met Moro. Born in Shanghai in 1979, Liao came to art quite late, deciding after her initial studies in China that she wanted to become a graphic designer. However, feeling that graphic design did not enable control over her creativity, she enrolled at the University of Memphis in 2006. There, the artist developed a strong visual style, first captured in 'Memphis, Tennessee' (2006–2008). In this series, the geometry of Liao's earlier career as a graphic designer is visible, along with the bold colours of the architectural structures and interiors that characterise Memphis, including its iconic dive bars. In her 2019 conversation with Ocula Magazine, Liao notes that she was inspired to study at the University of Memphis by her love of Elvis Presley. 'Memphis, Tennessee' preceded her relocation to Brooklyn, New York, where she continues to develop 'Experimental Relationship' with Moro.
Recently, Liao has sought to examine powerful female figures in history, investigating those who 'tend to have bad names because they were ruthless women'. Inspired by contemporary political events such as then-presidential Donald Trump's 'nasty woman' statement about opponent Hillary Clinton in 2016, the artist started 'Evil Women Cult' (2019–ongoing), a conceptual series of works that pay homage to female leaders in history. Temple for Her (2019) was first presented at Flyweight—a 1:12-scale exhibition space in New York—and is dedicated to China's only empress, Wu Zetian (624–705). Wu's name is tainted in history for the ruthless means through which she attained leadership, even though her actions were comparable to those of men in similar positions. In the installation, the artist's characteristic bright colours form the outline of a female body in a shallow mould filled with a liquid that resembles blood. Placed against the wall is a narrow red staircase that symbolises 'the lonely path the Empress took all the way to the top'.
Liao is a recipient of a NYFA Fellowship in Photography; Santo Foundation Individual Artist Awards; Jimei x Arles Madame Figaro China Women Photographers Award; En Foco's New Work Fellowship; and LensCulture Exposure Awards. Her work has been exhibited at the Rencontres d'Arles, France (2019); Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival, Xiamen, China (2018); and the Chinese American Art Council, New York (2011), among others.
Tessa Moldan | Ocula | 2019