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Groundbreaking Aboriginal art exhibition showcases five decades of Contemporary work
Michael Riley, Wiradjuri/Kamilaroi, "Untitled," 2004.

HANOVER, NH.- A groundbreaking exploration of contemporary art-making practices among Australia’s Indigenous peoples, drawn from one of the world’s largest private collections of Aboriginal art, opened last week at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College. Crossing Cultures: The Owen and Wagner Collection of Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Art at the Hood Museum of Art provides a survey of Australia’s contemporary Indigenous art movement from the 1970s to the present, with a particular focus on the new generation of artistic voices within the Aboriginal community who are advancing Aboriginal artistic traditions in the 21st century. The exhibition showcases the exceptional strengths of the Hood’s Indigenous art holdings and is among the flagship programming initiatives of Dartmouth’s campus-wide celebration of the arts during the 2012-13 academic year.

On view through March 10, 2013, Crossing Cultures is a geographically organized survey of more than 100 objects from the collection of Will Owen and Harvey Wagner, who donated the entirety of their extensive Aboriginal art holdings to the Hood Museum of Art in 2009 and 2011. Curated by Stephen Gilchrist, the Hood’s curator of Indigenous Australian art, the exhibition encompasses the broad range of media and materials employed by contemporary Aboriginal artists, from acrylic painting on canvas to earthen ochre painting on bark, as well as sculpture and photography, among other media. The exhibition blends the historical traditions and contemporary realities of Aboriginal life with works that draw on the ancestral narratives of the past displayed alongside photographic depictions of the Indigenous experience in contemporary urban settings. The exhibition includes such artists as John Mawurndjul, Djambawa Marawili, Naata Nungurrayi, Destiny Deacon, Paddy Bedford, and Doreen Reid Nakamarra.

“Crossing Cultures showcases the exceptional strengths of Will Owen and Harvey Wagner’s magnificent collection, the donation of which has transformed the Hood Museum into a leading destination for the study and exhibition of contemporary Aboriginal art,” said Michael Taylor, Director of the Hood Museum of Art. “We’re delighted to contribute to Dartmouth’s upcoming Year of the Arts with an exhibition that showcases one of the unique aspects of the Hood Museum’s collection and offers rich opportunities for curricular and co-curricular connections across the campus”

“The diversity of artistic perspectives assembled in Crossing Cultures speaks to the richness of the contemporary Aboriginal art tradition, which has been called ‘the last great art movement of the 20th century,’” said Gilchrist. “The objects included in this exhibition reference and reinvigorate traditional iconographies, speak to the history and legacy of colonization, and meaningfully contribute to the growing international discourse on contemporary Indigenous art.”

The artists featured in Crossing Cultures represent the broad geographic spectrum of Indigenous Australian society, from communities steeped in cultural law to major metropolitan centers. While many of the works on display draw from an extensive history of Indigenous art-making practices, the exhibition focuses specifically on those artists who have transformed tradition and contributed to a new form of contemporary Aboriginal art over the past five decades. Some of the notable artists featured in Crossing Cultures include:

· Michael Riley, whose cloud series (2004)—completed while the late artist was in the final stages of renal failure—comprises a series of photographic images that interweave references to Aboriginality, Christianity, and pastoralism with childhood memories set against an otherworldly skyscape.

· Shorty Jangala Robertson, known for his colored-dot paintings that re-imagine the ancestral narratives of the Warlpiri people, depicting the spirituality of northern Australia’s elemental landscape with graphic fluidity and gestural vigor.

· Danny Gibson Tjapaltjarri, whose painting Mukula (2009) adapts the geometric designs associated with the ancestral narrative of the Tingari Men, employing an aesthetic that draws the viewer into a liminal space between the worlds of the tangible and the spiritual.

· Destiny Deacon, an influential photographer whose work explores the vibrancy of contemporary Aboriginal peoples in Australia’s metropolitan communities, dramatically re-inserting a cosmopolitan Aboriginal perspective into a national consciousness that often marginalizes the Indigenous urban experience.

· Walangkura Napanangka, a member of the Pintupi people of the Western Desert, whose painting Lupul (2005) represents the eponymous ancestral site through an abstract colored-dot design that recalls the region’s windblown tali (sand hills).

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