sydney

Michael Riley

Art Gallery of New South Wales

By the time of his death in 2004, at the age of forty-four, Michael Riley was one of the leading proponents of identity politics in Australian art. A documentary photographer and filmmaker who saw himself as Aboriginal first and as an artist second, Riley aimed to create images that would counter media stereotypes of indigenous Australia. In the past—and, scarily enough, often today—these stereo- types tended to present indigenous people as anonymous figures somehow surviving in flyblown dust bowls. Riley, by contrast, made portraits and lush landscape imagery that celebrated everyday life in Aboriginal communities, in the bush, and in the city. His subjects were diverse but always identified by name and context, whether they were members of Riley’s own family sitting in conversation in rural New South Wales, fellow artists on the cusp of international success (such as Tracey Moffatt, with

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