Salon 94 Unveils the Exhibition ‘Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters’

 

 

 

Installation view, Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters, 2024. The Wood Room, Nongirrna Marawili. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Spanning Salon 94’s landmark 3 East 89th Street building, Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters presents works by seven renowned senior women artists from Australia. From the deserts, Pitjantjatjara women Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton work from—and heal—the arid, sun-scorched Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankuntjatjarra (APY) Lands, while Pintupi artists Mantua Nangala and Yukultji Napangati paint stories belonging to women in the remote communities where they live and work. By contrast, the rich traditions and coastal landscapes of northern Arnhem Land are reflected in the colorful, expressive paintings of Yolŋu artists Dhambit Munuŋgurr and Noŋgirrŋa Marawili on eucalyptus bark and board, while Kaiadilt artist Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori feverishly painted her relationship to her traditional home of Bentinck Island in an unprecedented outburst of creative energy and aesthetic reconfiguration.

Installation view, Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters, 2024. Gallery 1 Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Desert + Coast celebrates the dynamic contemporary art practices that persist and advance from across the Australian continent. Indigenous women pioneered a new, co-created era of painting in Australia in the late twentieth century, and the works in this exhibition—each pushing the boundaries of scale and color, tradition and depiction—are rich examples of the vanguard of Aboriginal painting, memory, and narration.

Installation view, Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters, 2024. Gallery 2, Juwarnda Sally Gabori.  Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Despite facing many adversities—assaults on land rights, cultural sovereignty, and self-determination—these artists’ singular practices are united through their depiction of Country. More than the physical land and waterways—that which can be conventionally mapped—Country encapsulates the dynamic connection First Nations peoples have retained to their ancestral homelands, which in some locations in Australia have been continuously occupied for upwards of 65,000 years. Country also comprises an array of creation stories, ceremonial locations, and meeting places of utmost importance to these various Indigenous communities. Each of the seven women and their communities have been severely impacted by colonization; their globally recognized art practices reflect collective effort to retain and reiterate important cultural knowledges that have been passed down for thousands of years. Beyond their aesthetic innovations, these paintings tell stories—informing viewers about the physicality, history, and cultural importance of their respective desert or coastal Country.

nstallation view, Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters, 2024. Gallery 1 Betty Muffler and Maringka Burton. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

The paintings of Muffler, Burton, Nangala, Napangati, Marawili, Munuŋgurr, and Gabori are as forward-looking as they are informed by tradition and precedent. The question for viewers is less what do we know of these works, but what might we be willing to learn from them as we consider the range of Indigenous art across states and nations, the importance of culture and Country today, and the prevalence of diverse practices across Australia.

nstallation view, Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters, 2024. Gallery 3, Yukultji Napangati. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Desert + Coast is the largest gallery exhibition to date, internationally, to engage with a plethora of color, style, scale, and composition in the roughly fifty paintings included. While the pathways and years of practice vary significantly for each of the seven women, together their works generate a display of dynamic genius, centering female autonomy, culture, Country, and community.

Installation view, Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters, 2024. The Stone Room, Dhambit Ruypu Munungurr. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

On Tuesday, February 6th from 4-6pm join Papaya Tula artist Mantua Nangala and Professor Fred Myers, long-time friend and colleague of the Pinup people as they informally discuss Tjukurpa (ancestral knowledge), Country, and the journeys of women at significant ceremonial sites like Mukula, Marrapinti, and Yunala in the Gibson Desert. The event is part of Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters, and will be held at Salon 94.

In the Brick Room, Mantua Nangala. Installation view. Salon 94. Courtesy of the artist and Salon 94. Photo: Elisabeth Bernstein

Desert + Coast: Seven Elder Aboriginal Painters will be on view to February 24, 2024 at Salon 94, located at 3 East 89th Street, NYC.

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