This exhibition takes us on a journey around northern Australia, known as the “Top End,” and invites us to explore more than 60 distinctive, screen-printed textiles made by 39 contemporary artists at five Aboriginal-owned art centers. Over the past 50 years, these textiles have become a vibrant medium for Indigenous expression, perpetuating traditional knowledge and reinvigorating its visual manifestations. Today these fabrics both serve the needs of their communities and circulate as prized collectibles, interior furnishings, and fashion apparel. The Fowler installation, organized around the individual art centers, reveals the creativity and innovation of Aboriginal artists and their sources of inspiration. Accompanying videos offer glimpses of the process of screen-printing textiles and the ways artists have translated ancient painting techniques into new media. The videos also introduce local environments—escarpments, flood plains, waterholes, rivers, and seas—that shelter the local flora and fauna seen on fabrics in bold colors and striking patterns. Screen-printed textiles enable Indigenous artists to share their cultures and identities, while providing them with a sustainable livelihood. The exhibition pays tribute to the resilience and beauty of Aboriginal Australia and reminds us of the enduring connections between peoples and their lands.
Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia’s Top End is organized by the Fowler Museum at UCLA and curated by Joanna Barrkman, Senior Curator of Southeast Asian and Pacific Arts, in collaboration with the Aboriginal-owned art centers. Major support for the exhibition has come from the Martha and Avrum Bluming Exhibition Fund with additional generous funding provided by the Fowler Textile Council, the Anne and John Summerfield Fowler Museum Fund, the Anawalt Center for the Study of Regional Dress Fund, Mary Herne and David Kenin in memory of Barbara K. Herne, Andrew Adelson, and Connie McCreight and Kerry Smallwood (to date). The accompanying publication is supported by the R. L. Shep Endowment Fund (with other support TBA). Marketing and K-12 education are funded partially by a grant from The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation.
Image at top:
Christina Yambeing (b. 1966) of Merrepen Arts, Billabong Scene (detail), Designed 2013. Screen print; five stencils; linen and ink; 310 x 136.5 cm. Fowler Museum at UCLA, X2018.7.1; Museum purchase with Fowler Textile Council funds.