Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection
The American Federation of Arts (AFA) and the Seattle Art Museum are pleased to announce the three venue tour of Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection. Presenting the richness of contemporary Indigenous and Australian art, Ancestral Modern presents sweeping paintings and dramatic sculptures from the collection of Seattle-based collectors, Robert Kaplan and Margaret Levi, highlighting works by some of the best-known artists of the Australian Aboriginal movement, including Rover Thomas, Emily Kam Kngwarry, and Queenie McKenzie. With approximately fifty works, Ancestral Modern illuminates the remarkable transformation of the world’s oldest continuous artistic tradition, while also introducing museum visitors across the United States to the work of these vibrant communities and some of their most revered artists. Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection will be presented in three venues in the United States: the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN (June 23–October 15, 2017), the Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (February 8–May 6, 2018), and the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TX (June 8–September 3, 2018).
Drawing from the collection of Robert Kaplan and Margaret Levi, Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection showcases the diversity of styles and content in mesmerizing dot paintings to the figurative bark paintings from the Arnhem Land. The exhibition comments on important themes of Indigenous Australian identity: their communities’ close connections to the land, their ongoing struggle for social and economic equality, and, above all, the importance of “Dreaming,” the ancestral realm that constitutes their spiritual focus.
Ancestral Modern explores the dramatic revolution in Australian Aboriginal art that began in the early 1960s, when the idea of refashioning traditional motifs for new purposes started to gain significant traction in Aboriginal communities. Artists from numerous groups soon began to adapt their standard artistic practices – songs, ceremonies, body art, and bark or rock paintings for the public eye. With this transition to portable paintings and sculptures, a concurrent shift took place in the broader reception of Aboriginal art. Through rooted in age-old cultural forms, these fresh and exploratory works are no longer framed solely in ethnographic terms, but instead occupy a prominent place in the global discourse on contemporary art.
Works in the exhibition include Tommy Mitchell’s Walu (2008), Emily Kame Kngwarreye’s Anooralya (1996), and John Mawurndjul’s Maradayin Design (2004), showcasing the diversity of mediums explored during the Australian Aboriginal art movement: bark strips, hollow logs, and canvases.
Drawing on a dynamic culture more than 50,000 years old while simultaneously refuting any impression that Indigenous Australians are mired in the past, Ancestral Modern will offer museum audiences a new way of looking at Australia’s landscape, history, and people.
Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection will travel to:
Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN (June 23 – October 15, 2017)
Chazen Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (February 8 – May 6, 2018)
Blanton Museum of Art, University of Texas, Austin, TX (June 17 – September 9, 2018)
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.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a published by the Seattle Art Museum and Yale University Press for the ignition showing of Ancestral Modern. The publication includes essays by Pamely McClusky; Wally Caruana, and Lisa Graziose Corrin.
EXHIBITION CREDIT LINE:
Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection is organized by the Seattle Art Museum and the American Federation of Arts.
ABOUT THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF ARTS
The American Federation of Arts is the leader in travelling exhibitions internationally. A nonprofit institution founded in 1909, the AFA is dedicated to enriching the public’s experience and understanding of the visual arts through organizing and touring art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishing exhibition catalogues featuring important scholarly research, and developing educational programs.
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