Aboriginal modernism in Australia



Publication Details

McLean, I. A. "Aboriginal modernism in Australia." Exiles, Diasporas and Strangers. Ed.K. Mercer. Cambridge, USA: INIVA & MIT Press, 2008, 72-95.


Remote Aboriginal painting earned a place in the contemporary global art world without any debts to modernism, as if it arrived fresh and new by some historical accident. The conventional art historical narrative traces the origins of the Desert art movement to the establishment of the Papunya Tula Artists Pty Ltd in 1972, at the very moment that modernism was suPposedly disintegrating. While occasional claims for the modernism of Central Australian (or Western Desert) acrylic paintings were made when they caught the eye of the art world in the 1980s, they were more rhetorical than substantial. Based on superficial stylistic affinities with western modernism, they have since been discredited. Curators stiff sometimes juxtapose these two very different traditions, but for poetic effect rather than any didactic point.

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