Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings from Papunya


      Edited by
      Roger Benjamin
      With essays by
      Fred Myers
      Vivien Johnson
      R. G. Kimber
      and Hetti Perkins.




      Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, 2009.






      In 1971, at Papunya, a government-established Aboriginal community in Central Australia, a Sydney-based schoolteacher provided a group of men with the tools and the encouragement to paint. Known as “Papunya boards,” these works constituted the beginning of the Western Desert art movement where indigenous Australian artists explore images and experiences in a new medium and on permanent surfaces. Drawn from the John and Barbara Wilkerson Collection, the exhibition includes masters of the Papunya School such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi, Johnny Warangkula Tjupurrula, and Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri. 

Icons of the Desert is illustrated with full-color plates of forty-nine works from the exhibition. In addition, it features numerous color figures of comparative works and documentary photographs of the original artists at work, some never before published, and a chronological catalog documenting the works’ history and iconography.