“Papunya Tula”

Art Gallery of New South Wales

“Papunya Tula: Genesis and Genius” was the first major museum survey to systematically trace the history of Western Desert Painting beginning with its unlikely emergence in 1971 at a hellish, dysfunctional settlement forcibly created by racist government policies. The exhibition focused on a core group of Aboriginal painters who organized themselves into a cooperative called Papunya Tula Artists. Along with artists from other Desert communities, and encouraged by Geoffrey Bardon, a young white artist turned schoolteacher, they rapidly created paintings of enormous ambition on a scale that was both public and political—arguably the most significant corpus of art made in Australia from the 1970s on. Against the drift of postcolonial art worldwide, their declarations of micronationhood were parsed within, rather than against, the syntax of reductive abstract painting. It therefore seems

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