Australian Aboriginal Art Symposium Set for Nora Ecceles Harrison Museum of Art, 11/16
The symposium is organized on the occasion of NEHMA's current exhibition Abstraction and the Dreaming: Aboriginal Painting in Australia's Western Desert (1971-Present) and its complementary exhibition Transcendence: Abstraction and Symbolism in the American West. The two presentations explore abstraction and symbolism in 20th and 21st century artistic practices from very different areas of the world -- the Papunya region of the Australian Western Desert and the American West, and the rich cross-cultural dialogues and multi-cultural histories that they represent.
The first Papunya painters were men whose extensive cultural knowledge of ancestral stories, referred to as "Dreamings," provided the subject matter. Encouraged by a Sydney schoolteacher in the 1970s, who provided materials -- acrylic paint and masonite boards and, later, canvas -- to create permanent works, the artists employed symbols used in other contexts. These included drawing in the sand to accompany storytelling or body painting and constructing designs on the ground for ceremonial rituals. The early "Papunya boards" are descendants of mark-making that dates to well over 100 centuries ago and are the beginning of the Western Desert art movement.
Howard Murphy, PhD, Professor of Anthropology in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, Australian National University, will explore the role of abstraction in Australian Aboriginal Art prior to 1971;
Fred Myers, PhD., Silver Professor of Anthropology, New York University, will describe his first-hand experience working with Aboriginal Artists in the Western Desert in the early 1970s (via Skype);