Aboriginal Painting, Gift and Cost

Posted by Aboriginal Art Directory | 12.09.09

Re: the Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings from Papunya exhibition

Sent to the resettlement camp at Papunya, in South Central Australia, to acculturate the Aboriginal children, schoolteacher Geoff Bardon noticed that they were drawing nonstop in the sand, and encouraged them to do this art as a mural rather than to draw the cowboys and Indians they were supposed to draw. On seeing their culture expressed, not repressed, the fathers at the camp approached Bardon and asked to take the initiative. Bardon provided them with materials to convey their ceremonial art and make it permanent, and so, in 1971, began the Western Desert art movement.

The exciting and harrowing story of this initiative unfolds in “Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings from Papunya,” organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University and now on view at the Grey Art Gallery of N.Y.U. The cultural complexity is not lost—indeed, it is finely narrated through the paintings on view, through Bardon’s and others’ visual notes yet also through original footage of the artists working on site. The catalogue is definitive, if only for the reason that curator Roger Benjamin enlisted essays from specialists, especially that of anthropologist Fred Myers, who did his fieldwork in Papunya in the 1970s and has written two books on the Western Desert people.

“Icons of the Desert,” may be seen at Grey Gallery, New York University, 100 Washington Square East, from Sept.1 through Dec. 5, 2009. Of related interested is a show of art representing the current Papunya Tula Artists cooperative, “We are Here Sharing Our Dreaming,” at 80 Washington Square East, which runs from Sept. 12 through Sept. 26, 2009.

URL: http://www.observer.com/2009/style/aboriginal-painting-gift-and-cost

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