Ancestral Modern

Walu, 2008, Tommy Mitchell

On display at the Seattle Art Museum: an extraordinary (as in EXTRAORDINARY) exhibit of contempoary aboriginal art. Mostly paintings, the show has been assembled from the collection of a Seattle couple, Robert Kaplan and Margaret Levi.

Some of my favorite aboriginal painters are well represented—
Emily Kam Kngwarray, Wimmitji Tjapangarti, Doreen Reid Nakamarra, Gloria Tamerr Petyarr and Kathleen Petyarr. It also introduced me to some new favorites including Maringka Baker, Eileen Yaritja Stevens and Regina Pilawuk Wilson.

My passion for this work is a long standing one thanks to my friend Colleen Burke who first introduced me to the Utopian painters 20 years ago. And after spending time in Australia (and the Western Desert in particular) my interest has only deepened. I have a few treasured pieces in my collection that I have been looking at for years and still find compelling.

Interestingly Kaplan and Levi became passionate about this work about the same time, in the early 1990s. After Levi was hit by an Australian Post courier, they used the money from the settlement to start this collection. I like their point of view. Many of the pieces in their collection are paintings I would love to be able to view every day.

If a trip to Seattle before September 2 is not on your agenda, do the next best thing and buy the catalog, Ancestral Modern. This is a beautifully conceived book with texts by Wally Caruana, Pamela McClusky, Lisa Graziose Corrin and Stephen Gilchrist.

6 Replies to “Ancestral Modern”

  1. Thanks for this post and for the tip about the catalogue. I’m going to get it because I find this work so beautiful and lastingly inspirational.

    1. Thanks Deborah for keeping this shared passion alive… Want to grab a plane to Seattle together?

    2. I so agree. I never grow tired of looking at this work. And the book is so well done. Enjoy.

    3. In complete agreement. Thanks Nancy for giving your thumbs up.

  2. Would love to see this exhibit. I last saw a very tiny (just 13 artworks) exhibit at the Met, and spent more than an hour with it. I never tire of looking at Aboriginal art.

    1. I wish this show were coming East. No luck. But we have the Ocean Park show at the Corcoran coming soon so that’s something to celebrate. (I will be down to see it at the end of July.)

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