Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings at the Grey Gallery

November 11, 2009


Unpredictable, quirky, innovative and quite varied – some of the adjectives to describe the latest Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings from Papunya exhibition at NYU’s Grey gallery. I would also add dreamy, hypnotic and spiritual to the list

In 1971, schoolteacher Geoffrey Bardon provided a select group of men in Papunya, a community 160 miles west of Alice Springs in Australia, with acrylics and boards. Before these boards were made available, most artistic renderings had been in the fleeting form of body decoration, ceremonial objects and temporary ground paintings.

The new pieces established an artistic permanence as well as a striking new visual language, featuring dream motifs, ceremony, storytelling, song and the ancient tradition of mark making that dates back more than 10,000 years.

These Papunya boards, of which fewer than 600 remain, formed the genesis of the Western Desert Art Movement. Approximately fifty of these exhilarating pieces are on exhibit by notables such as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi, Johnny Warangkula, and Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri.

I urge you to go and experience the sweat, tears and love that has been poured into each individual piece. The intensity is real, the vitality is powerful. Do not miss this one-of-a-kind exhibit which runs through December 5th.

To view the ArtistsinAuction website click here.

Rainbow and WaterWomen-s-Dreaming-Abo-4e5fbd6b8aeaWater-Dreaming-1972--4b1690c85ccdCeremonial-Story-for-4906b5de1742Big-Cave-Dreaming-wi-46589eb65948An-untitled-1973-wor-4b0d90687c22-4af8a4d5dde0Medicine-Story-1971--4447a52c1646

Aboriginal Art 004

7 Responses to “Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings at the Grey Gallery”

  1. thank you for covering this exhibition. It has been most successful and your description is fascinating.
    It is very important that you remove the secret/sacred (restricted) image from the website. this is the last image which is orange and has the man in the center. our agreement is to only exhibit this in a restricted area, not include it on our website or in anything such as a book that goes to Australia. This is out of respect for their cultural wishes. I would appreciate you letting me know you received this and will comply with our request. Thank you, John

  2. Thanks for posting this to my LinkedIn group. I love this art and have coffee table books of this art to inspire me at home. They are serious about what should not be published, so I hope you will comply with that.

  3. John,

    That would be a real shame as it is very beautiful and may offer meaning for others on many levels. The Spiritual level communicates beyond human intervention and at times uses methods like this, to do so and reach out to those who appreciate the education.

  4. thanks and apologies…i have removed the image

  5. Dear Cheryl,

    Thank you for a passionate and very kind review of our exhibition. Pieces like yours are immeasurably helpful in spreading the word about these unique, beautiful, and profound works.

    Alas I must ask you to remove a second image from this page, which is also sacred/secret. This is the Anatjari Tjakamarra painting Pakarangura, the one second from the bottom with the central roundel and long oval forms radiating from it in an x-shape. My thanks for your sensitivity to this issue, and again for your piece.

    All best wishes,

    Andy Weislogel
    Organizing Curator, Icons of the Desert
    Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Cornell University

  6. Can someone explain why this sacred secret…it could serve as an insight to their culture and be very interesting to some of us who wishes to learn.

  7. Tina said

    Lovely ! J like the colors !

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