Magazine article Artforum International

"The Urban Aboriginal." (Jan Weiss Gallery, New York, New York)

Magazine article Artforum International

"The Urban Aboriginal." (Jan Weiss Gallery, New York, New York)

Article excerpt

Featuring four contemporary Australian artists of Aboriginal heritage--Lin Onus, Bronwyn Bancroft, Sally Morgan, and Karen Casey--this show presented work actively involved in the reclamation of Koori (Aboriginal) identity. Though marked by a diversity of styles, the paintings presented here shared a self-conscious connection to Aboriginal culture, whether through the recovery of traditional Koori art, or through a profoundly spiritual connection to the earth.

Inspired by traditional Aboriginal bark painting (practiced in the region of northern Australia known as Arnhem Land), Lin Onus concocts his own potent synthesis of realistic landscape painting and traditional pictographic images. In a recent work, Jerrawah 2, artificially patterned, mythical lizards crawl up realistically rendered trees--a subtle, jolting combination of nature and culture. Here, Western constructions of vision are replaced by Aboriginal notions of the spiritual aspect of nature. In her own exploration of the past, Bronwyn Bancroft reinvents the "dot" painting tradition of the Australian Central Desert, used for thousands of years to recount the creation narrative of Dream Time. In Treaty, 1991, an explosive field of concentric rings hovers over a pair of iconic figures, one white and one black, engaged in negotiating an agreement, a scene that alludes to the two hundred years of broken promises and genocide that has characterized the Aboriginal experience in colonial Australia.

The connection to Aboriginal culture is less visually obvious but nevertheless pervasive in the paintings of Sally Morgan and Karen Casey. …

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