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NYU's Grey Art Gallery to Open Icons of the Desert: Early Aboriginal Paintings from Papunya
Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi, Mystery Sand Mosaic, 1974. Pintupi Synthetic polymer paint on canvas board, 19 15/16 x 17 3/4 in. Collection of John and Barbara Wilkerson, New York
NEW YORK, NY.- The Grey Art Gallery at New York University will open the first U.S. exhibition focusing on early acrylic paintings from the Australian Indigenous settlement of Papunya, Icons of the Desert features approximately 50 paintings, including many rare and spectacular examples dating from the 1970s. The exhibition opens on September 1 and runs through December 5, 2009.

In 1971, at Papunya, a government-established Aboriginal community in Central Australia, a Sydney-based schoolteacher provided a group of men with the tools and the encouragement to paint. Known as "Papunya boards," these works constituted the beginning of the Western Desert art movement, in which Indigenous Australian artists explore images and experiences with paint on permanent surfaces. With fewer than 600 in existence, these early boards enjoy a unique status within the history of Aboriginal art. Drawn from the John and Barbara Wilkerson Collection, the exhibition includes such masters of the Papunya School as Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri, Shorty Lungkarta Tjungurrayi, Johnny WarangkulaTjupurrula, and Mick Namararri Tjapaltjarri.

Icons of the Desert and the accompanying catalogue were organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University. The exhibition was curated by Roger Benjamin, Research Professor in Art History, Actus Foundation Lecturer in Aboriginal Art, Power Institute, University of Sydney.

The exhibition opened at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art in January 2009, and then travelled to the Fowler Museum at UCLA in the summer of 2009. The Grey Art Gallery at NYU is the final venue.

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