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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 6 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 27
SAM, Jeffrey Moose salute Australian aboriginal art
Arts & Entertainment
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SAM, Jeffrey Moose salute Australian aboriginal art

by Milton W. Hamlin - SGN A&E Writer

ANCESTRAL MODERN:
AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL ART
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
Through September 2


Seattle art lovers have a rare opportunity this summer, as the Seattle Art Museum offers a major exhibition built around modern versions of historic Australian aboriginal art - and, just a few blocks away, the Jeffrey Moose Gallery offers a stunning display of modern works from the same source. 'See it at SAM, Buy it at Jeff's' might be a good slogan for Moose (he has our permission to use it).

The museum's newest main exhibit, Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art, opened just weeks ago and continues through September 2. It's a short time frame for a 'must-see' event, albeit one whose appeal to the mass audience will likely be somewhat limited.

SAM's clever print ad campaign proves that truth in advertising still exists. 'Imagine,' a museum ad reads, quoting a review in a local weekly, 'if Tibetan mandalas met the night sky met Keith Haring met Agnes Martin met Vincent van Gogh met a rainbow met feminist body art met a fire met a spider met a banquet table set for a feast, and you could look at everything from a satellite view and through a microscope, back and forth.' Like the exhibit itself, this summary challenges the mind, requiring a second reading and a lot of thought.

While few of the works here are stand-alone masterpieces, their overall impact is simply stunning. Modern aboriginal artists - mostly painters, with a few sculptors and ceramists - return to their ancient roots with new, permanent adaptations. Much ancient art was not designed to last (think Asian sand paintings and the like). Reinterpreted in ways designed to withstand the test of time, these very modern paintings capture their origins in a new format.

For example, ancient women once used dried fruits in swirling circular displays as religious offerings to ensure blessings for upcoming desert travels. The dried fruits were then taken, as 'blessed' objects, on the journey and used as food. In the modern paintings, raisins become brown oil pigment dots. In another series, tiny white seashells (much like the puka-shell necklaces that were a disco fashion staple in the 1970s), originally gifts to ancient deities, are rendered by modern painters as tiny white dots. And yes, one needs to read each work's title card in order to understand all this.

Multiple gallery displays are grouped around clear, unifying themes - 'New Landscapes From the Western Deserts,' 'Woman Painters of Utopia,' 'Portraits,' 'Desert of Symbols,' etc. A few, notably 'No Dead End' and 'Scars of the Land,' are more abstract and challenging.

There is no surcharge for the exhibit and SAM, as always, suggests a set donation for admission but 'happily accepts' any amount. Testing the policy, one local art critic (not this writer, mind you) offered 50 cents a while back, and was cheerfully thanked and given a ticket. Recently, a friend-of-a-friend tried plunking down a single nickel. He, too, was welcomed inside. What a deal.

Complete details about this and other SAM exhibits can be found at www.seattleartmuseum.org. For group reservations, call (206) 344-5260.

Big Country
Jeffrey Moose Gallery
Through September 1


The long-established Jeffrey Moose Gallery, just a few blocks from SAM, opened Big Country: Australian Aboriginal Art Coast to Coast early in the SAM show's run. The exhibit continues through September 1 with all works for sale in Moose's big new space at 1331 5th Ave., as well as his original gallery in the Rainier Tower (1301 5th Ave.).

Like SAM's exhibit, the Moose Gallery show approaches ancient motifs in a thoroughly modern way. Prices for the works range from a very affordable $250 to an astonishing $45,000. Compared to prices for established Seattle painters, most of the works offer 'a lot of bang for your buck,' as one witless wit declared at the opening (but he was totally correct). One terrific work, 'Big Country,' is the cover illustration for Art Access, the Seattle-area monthly art guide. The trio of SGN visitors agreed that a very atypical work - more of a Rothko than an aboriginal-inspired creation - was a highlight of the show.

For more information, call (206) 467-6951 or visit www.jeffreymoosegallery.com. Admission, of course, is free (this writer's favorite word). Tell 'em SGN sent ya.

This unofficial collaboration (or cross-pollination, if you will) between museum and gallery offers Seattle a unique cultural opportunity this summer. Try to visit both exhibits on the same day - each will expand your appreciation of the other.

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