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Desert Painters of Australia

Works from the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia and the Collection of Steve Martin and Anne Stringfield

May 3–July 3, 2019
976 Madison Avenue, New York

Installation view Artwork, left to right: © Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019; © Willy Tjungurrayi; © Ronnie Tjampitjinpa. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view

Artwork, left to right: © Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019; © Willy Tjungurrayi; © Ronnie Tjampitjinpa. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view Artwork © Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view

Artwork © Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view Artwork, left to right: © Yukultji Napangati, © George Tjungurrayi, © Tjumpo Tjapanangka. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view

Artwork, left to right: © Yukultji Napangati, © George Tjungurrayi, © Tjumpo Tjapanangka. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view Artwork, left to right: © George Tjungurrayi, © Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, © Yukultji Napangati, © George Tjungurrayi. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view

Artwork, left to right: © George Tjungurrayi, © Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri, © Yukultji Napangati, © George Tjungurrayi. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view Artwork, left to right: © Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, © George Tjungurrayi, © Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view

Artwork, left to right: © Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, © George Tjungurrayi, © Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view Artwork, left to right: © Naata Nungurrayi, © Makinti Napanangka, © Tjumpo Tjapanangka. Photo: Rob McKeever

Installation view

Artwork, left to right: © Naata Nungurrayi, © Makinti Napanangka, © Tjumpo Tjapanangka. Photo: Rob McKeever

Works Exhibited

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Kame Yam Awelye, 1996 Synthetic polymer on Belgian linen, 59 ½ × 35 ½ inches (151 × 90 cm)© Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Kame Yam Awelye, 1996

Synthetic polymer on Belgian linen, 59 ½ × 35 ½ inches (151 × 90 cm)
© Emily Kame Kngwarreye/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

Makinti Napanangka, Kungka Kutjarra (Two Women), 2001 Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 48 × 60 ¼ inches (121.9 × 153 cm)© Makinti Napanangka/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

Makinti Napanangka, Kungka Kutjarra (Two Women), 2001

Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 48 × 60 ¼ inches (121.9 × 153 cm)
© Makinti Napanangka/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, Rockholes and Country Near the Olgas, 2007 Synthetic polymer on Belgian linen, 80 ¾ × 118 ⅛ inches (205 × 300 cm)© Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri. Photo: Rob McKeever

Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, Rockholes and Country Near the Olgas, 2007

Synthetic polymer on Belgian linen, 80 ¾ × 118 ⅛ inches (205 × 300 cm)
© Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri. Photo: Rob McKeever

George Tjungurrayi, Untitled—Kirrimalunya, 2007 Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 96 ⅛ × 72 ⅛ inches (244 × 183 cm)© George Tjungurrayi/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

George Tjungurrayi, Untitled—Kirrimalunya, 2007

Synthetic polymer paint on linen, 96 ⅛ × 72 ⅛ inches (244 × 183 cm)
© George Tjungurrayi/Copyright Agency. Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, 2019. Photo: Rob McKeever

Willy Tjungurrayi, Untitled, 2001 Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 59 ⅞ × 72 ⅛ inches (151.9 × 183 cm)© Willy Tjungurrayi. Photo: Rob McKeever

Willy Tjungurrayi, Untitled, 2001

Synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 59 ⅞ × 72 ⅛ inches (151.9 × 183 cm)
© Willy Tjungurrayi. Photo: Rob McKeever

About

Gagosian is pleased to present a special exhibition of contemporary Indigenous Australian painting from two significant American collections. Spanning three generations, the exhibition includes works by leading painters from the Central and Western Desert regions.

Indigenous people have lived in the remote Australian deserts for many thousands of years. In the late 1960s, the Australian government moved several communities from the Western Desert region—primarily Pintupi, Luritja, Warlpiri, and Arrernte peoples—to the Papunya settlement, about 150 miles south of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. This forced displacement inadvertently created a new hub for Indigenous Australian art where members of the community were encouraged to paint first murals, then works on canvas, using the patterns of sand art and ceremonial body decoration. This initiative set in motion the visual transposition of ancient stories and traditions into paint on canvas, giving the Papunya Tula artists an opportunity to reexamine the imagery and present their culture to outsiders through transcendental visual codes. Informed by a lifetime of learning, these paintings thus represent an invaluable archive of Indigenous knowledge.

Many of the works in this exhibition, made during the last twenty years, reveal the ways in which subsequent generations of Indigenous Australian artists have responded to their progenitors, and attest to the increasingly prominent role of women artists among them. While the first Western Desert paintings directly depicted signifying symbols and ideograms, the Papunya Tula artists later sought to obfuscate overt references, dotting and over-dotting as a means of protecting sacred designs. This strategy of simultaneous exposition and concealment yielded unparalleled visual feats, as each artist presented a continuum between states of waking and dreaming, ephemerality and permanence, representation and direct experience.

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Artists

Emily Kame Kngwarreye
Makinti Napanangka
Yukultji Napangati
Naata Nungurrayi
Ronnie Tjampitjinpa
Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri
Warlimpirrnga Tjapaltjarri
Tjumpo Tjapanangka
George Tjungurrayi
Willy Tjungurrayi

Press

Polskin Arts
Meagan Jones
meagan.jones@finnpartners.com
+1 212 593 6485

Gregory Gestner
gregory.gestner@finnpartners.com
+1 212 593 5815

Gagosian
pressny@gagosian.com
+1 212 744 2313

News

Fred Myers (left) and Henry Skerritt (right)

In Conversation

Fred Myers
Henry Skerritt

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, 6–7pm
Gagosian, 976 Madison Avenue, New York

To coincide with Desert Painters of Australia, an exhibition of contemporary Indigenous Australian art at Gagosian, 976 Madison Avenue, New York, the gallery will host a conversation between leading authorities Fred Myers, Silver Professor of Anthropology at New York University, and Henry Skerritt, Curator of Indigenous Arts of Australia at the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia. Their conversation will be introduced and moderated by Margo Smith, director of the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection. The event has reached capacity. To view a live-stream of the event, visit Gagosian’s Instagram.

Download the full press release (PDF)

Fred Myers (left) and Henry Skerritt (right)