Artists vie for Uncle Sam's eye

Aboriginal Art Directory | 11.09.09

News source: The Age

The largest contemporary indigenous art exhibition to leave Australian shores is about to open in Washington, the first event in a cultural initiative that aims to boost Australia's profile in the US.

Culture Warriors, which has been curated by the National Gallery of Australia, will be opened by the Arts Minister, Peter Garrett, tomorrow at the Katzen Arts Centre, American University.

The exhibition was first assembled by the National Gallery in 2007 to commemorate the 1967 referendum that recognised Aborigines as citizens.

Its curator, Brenda Croft, said 20 of the artists were not counted in the Australian census before the 1967 referendum. "They were considered part of the flora and fauna, not citizens."

The exhibition features the work of Jean Baptiste Apuatimi, from Melville Island, and Lofty Bardayal Nadjamerrek, one of Australia's foremost bark painters.

But it goes far beyond the kind of traditions that would be most familiar to Americans. Several of the artists adapted Aboriginal techniques of painting, weaving and sculpture for modern art that offers a sharp commentary on race relations in Australia.

The photography of Ricky Maynard, from Tasmania, draws on the landscape style of Ansel Adams, and in a documentary manner redresses what he calls false views of Australian history - specifically that Aborigines were wiped out in Tasmania. His images show Aborigines hunting birds on Flinders Island, off Tasmania's north-east coast, and healing groves of trees that are significant to his people.

Christopher Pease, a young artist from the south-west of Western Australia, uses early colonial imagery of the arrival of white men to comment on the dislocation of Aboriginal society.

One of his paintings, based on a 19th-century lithograph by John Sykes, shows a deserted village and a giant red target. "The target in my painting is a reference to the gun, but it is also a reference to concentric circle symbols used all the way through Aboriginal tribes," he said.

Ten of the 30 artists will take part in events linked to the opening on Thursday.


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Contact Details

Gallery: National Gallery of Australia
Contact: Tina Baum - Curator Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art
Telephone: +61 2 6240 6502
Address: Parkes Place or GPO Box 1150 Canberra ACT 2601 Parkes Parkes 2601 ACT



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