Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection

  • Tommy Mitchell|Walu, 2008|Synthetic polymer paint on canvas|40 x 60 in.|Seattle Art Museum, Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan|© Tommy Mitchell
  • Emily Kam Kngwarray|Anooralya (Wild Yam Dreaming), 1995|Synthetic polymer paint on canvas|59 13/16 x 48 ⅟16 in.|Seattle Art Museum, Gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan|© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VISCOPY, Australia
  • John Mawurndjul|Mardayin Design, 2006|Natural pigments on eucalyptus bark|79 15/16 x 28 15/16 in.|Seattle Art Museum, Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan|© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VISCOPY, Australia

VENUES

Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN: June 23–October 15, 2017

Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI:  January 26–April 22, 2018

Blanton Museum of Art, UT, Austin, TX: June 3–September 9, 2018

Fourth venue: Fall 2018

Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection introduces American audiences to the spectacular efflorescence of Indigenous Australian painting and sculpture that has occurred since the 1970s. In the late 1960s, decades of grassroots activism culminated in political changes that brought increased power and visibility to Aboriginal people. The years that followed marked the start of an artistic renaissance, fueled both by the end of government policies that demanded assimilation into white society and by the growing desire of Aboriginal artists to share their ancient culture with the wider world. This exhibition, curated by Pam McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art at the Seattle Art Museum, will engage museum visitors throughout the United States with these arresting works and the intriguing stories they tell.

Ancestral Modern contains approximately 50 artworks, including paintings on bark strips, hollow logs, and canvases, in addition to a small selection of sculptures. In many cases, artists have translated motifs from traditional art forms, such as rock and body painting, to media that can be more easily shared with viewers around the world. Most of the works in this exhibition represent subjects related to the Dreaming, the supertemporal realm of the ancestors. Knowledge of particular Dreamings may be accessible only to certain individuals, kinship groups, or peoples; artists often adapt or encode existing symbols and motifs to arrive at representations that are appropriate for sharing with outside audiences.

PUBLICATION

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, published by Yale University Press for the exhibition’s original presentation at the Seattle Art Museum.

CURATOR

Pamela McClusky is Curator of Art of Africa and Oceania at the Seattle Art Museum, where she helped to establish the African and Oceanic Art Department and the museum’s permanent galleries for African and Australian Aboriginal art.

BOOKING

For more information, contact Curator Richard Townsend at 212.988.7700 ext. 225 or rtownsend@amfedarts.org.

CREDIT

This exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Seattle Art Museum.

It was made possible by the generosity of Mrs. Donald M. Cox, the Wolfensohn Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor.