American Eyes on Aboriginal Art

Earlier this week the Hood Museum of Art posted a video to YouTube from the opening weekend ceremonies for their exhibition of contemporary Australian Aboriginal art, Crossing Cultures.  It’s a lovely short introduction to the show.  There’s plenty of shots of the crowd, but what pleases me most, apart from some unusual perspectives on the artworks (watch out for that crocodile’s mouth!) are the moments in which you see the guests engaged with the work: nosing up close to a painted line, resketching the outlines of a drawing, smiling as they snap a photograph for themselves.  I hope you enjoy the glimpse it provides of Stephen Gilchrist’s extraordinarily sensitive interpretations of the artworks.

As is often the case with YouTube, one good turn leads to another, and I discovered that the Hood Musuem also posted the gallery talk that I delivered that same weekend.  This one’s a bit longer (OK, a lot longer) and I’m a little embarrassed to toot this particular horn.  But it gives you a feel for the themes that the show evokes.  The only problem is that it was originally supposed to be a walk through the galleries, but when about a hundred people showed up, the Museum staff quickly deployed folding chairs in the largest gallery space, set up a microphone, and transformed the event into a lecture.  So I spend quite a bit of time talking about paintings and sculptures and photographs that aren’t visible despite the videographer’s best efforts.

To offset that loss, I’ve put together another slide show with the best photographs I have to hand from the exhibition that illustrate the works that I make reference to.  I hope it helps if you’re interested enough to watch the video of the lecture itself.

During the video, I’m standing in front of three paintings (with Christian Thompson’s Black Gum #2, 2007 often visible in the background.  Left to right, they are Ningura Napurrula, Untitled (Wirrulnga), 2004; Shorty Jangala Robertson, Ngapa Jukurrpa – Puyurru, 2007; and Maggie Napangardi Watson,  Ngalyipa Jinta Punta Jukurrpa (Snake Vine Mushroom Dreaming), 1996.

The works included in the slide show and discussion include the following:

  • Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, Untitled (Fire Dreaming at Murmunya), 2003
  • Maryanne Mungatopi, Purukaparli, Bima, TaparraJinaniPurukaparli and Jinani, 2002
  • Leon Puruntatameri, Tokwampini, 2001 and Paddy Bedford, Doowoonan (Old Bedford Downs), 2000, left, and Emu Dreaming at Mt. King, 1999 (right)
  • Tutini, 1988, by Theodore Tipiloura, Gabriel Tungutalum, and Clementine Puruntatameri (left to right) with Rusty Peters, Jawigin – Billy Mac Spring, 2006, in the background
  • John Mawurndjul, Mardayin Ceremony, 2003
  • Banumbirr (Morning Star Poles) by, left to right, Gali Yalkarriwuy, 2006; Richard Dhaymutha Gurruwiwi, 2006; Trevor Gurriwiwi, 2003; Henry Nupurra, 2003; and Gali Yalkarriwuy, 1999
  • Waturr Gumana, Dhalwangu Law, 2004
  • Djottara (G. Yunupingu), Garak, 2005
  • Nyapanyapa Yunupingu, White Painting #5, 2009
  • Foreground, left to right, Craig Koomeeta, Freshwater Crocodile, 2002; Jubilee Wolmby, Shark (Theel Echeyn), 2005; Gary Namponan Ku (Dingo), 2005; rear, Arthur Koo-ekka Pambegan Jnr, Bonefish Story Place, 2004
  • Left to right, Samantha Hobson, Wave Break at Night, 2003; Fiona Omeenyo, Strong Culture, 2003; Rosella Namok, Blue Water Hole, 2003
  • Veron Ah Kee, unwritten, 2009
  • Darren Siwes, Give Way, 2001
  • Ricky Maynard, Wik Elder, Arthur, 2000
  • Bindi Cole, Ajay, 2010

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Update:  A few minutes after posting this I tumbled to another video, this one of the symposium that the Hood Museum hosted that same weekend, entitled Together Alone: Politics of Indigeneity and Culture in Australia.  After introductory remarks by Museum Director Michael Taylor and curator Stephen Gilchrist, panelists Brenda L. Croft, Sonia Smallacombe, and Christian Thompson take over in a discussion of “critical issues surrounding the reception and recognition of Indigenous art and the politics of Indigeneity in an increasingly globalized world.”

As a special treat there are videos within the video.  During his remarks Christian Thompson screened a short documentary on his work at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford with historical photographs of Indigenous Australia.  He followed this up with two videos that explore Thompson’s interest in preserving Indigenous Australian languages, and closed with his 2010 work Heat.  This multi-screen video features Hetti Perkins’ three daughters and a haunting score for the harp.  Taken together, these three videos demonstrate both the excitement about and the commitment to Indigenous art and culture at the Hood Museum of Art.

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2 Responses to American Eyes on Aboriginal Art

  1. Pingback: WordPress Woes and New Australian Aboriginal Art « Dreaming the World

  2. Pingback: Arts at Dartmouth: Stephen Gilchrist and Black Arm Band | Aboriginal Art & Culture: an American eye

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