Earlier this week I visited the Chazen Museum of Art, located in the city I currently live – Madison, Wisconsin – on the University of Wisconsin campus. It’s a wonderful, free museum with plenty of delicious art, and I went specifically to see an exhibit they have up through April 22, titled “Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection.”
From the Chazen website: “Since the 1960s, Indigenous Australian and Torres Strait Islander artists have spearheaded a renaissance in the world’s oldest continuous artistic tradition, innovating within the idioms of visual languages that have developed over the course of millennia. While these dazzling paintings and beguiling sculptures often share formal characteristics with Western modern art, they represent conscientious efforts on the part of Aboriginal artists to share their culture with outsiders.”
Here are my favorite pieces from the exhibit.
According to a brochure I picked up at the museum, there is no word for “art” in Aboriginal languages. They use a “visual alphabet composed of symbols,” to map how ancestral lands came to be, how one is attached to those lands, and which ancestral beings are responsible for the resources found on that land. So even though I look at these pieces and could describe them in terms of the art elements – color, form, line,shape, space, texture, and value – these artists use their own visual language to pass on knowledge, cultural values, and belief systems – or to put it more simply, to tell a story. Any way one wants to put words to this art or these stories, my eyes and brain LOVE the imagery!