The collection of Bob Kaplan and Margaret Levi is now on show at the Seattle Art Museum in Washington state, USA. With more than 100 works created from 1970 through to 2009, the exhibition showcases what has been called the artistic renaissance of the world’s oldest living culture.
The exhibition, featuring several Papunya Tula artists’, is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Yale University Press.
Ancestral Modern explores the extraordinary transformation in Australian Aboriginal art that began in the 1970s. Instead of making art primarily for each other-whether painted or inscribed on rock walls, on the ground, on bark, or on bodies as part of ceremonies-artists began rephrasing their practices to inform outsiders about the complexities of their cultures and the remarkable lands that Aboriginal communities have managed for centuries.
Many of the paintings in Ancestral Modern initially appear abstract but communicate surprisingly specific observations about places and people, flora and fauna, and Aboriginal history. In three wide-ranging essays and illuminating discussions of fifty individual works, the authors of the exhibition catalogue consider how deceptively simple means yield richly multilayered meanings. What appears to be a geometric maze turns into the path of ancestral beings establishing features of the landscape. Canvases resembling maps record memories of sacred ceremonies. Dazzling linear patterns conjure up leaves blown across a windswept desert, and herringbone hatching designates clan identities. Along the way, this collection offers many new visions of Australia-peering underground to see yams grow, trekking over vast salt lakes, following the trail of a blue-tongued lizard, and encountering a lightning-spitting serpent in swirling water.
Purchase the exhibition catalogue at: https://yalepress.yale.edu/yupbooks/book.asp?isbn=9780300180039
For more information visit: https://seattleartmuseum.org/ancestralmodern/