Desert Dreamscapes: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings from the Collection of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan

Desert Dreamscapes will open at the Holter Museum of Art in Helena, Montana on June 14th 2007. The exhibition, curated by David Betz is comprised of 16 major paintings from Seattle’s Levi and Kaplan Collection — one of America’s premier collections of Australian Aboriginal Art.

Desert Dreamscapes reveals the world as seen through Aboriginal eyes. The breathtaking abstract canvases on display depict expansive desert landscapes, shaped and given meaning by the events of the mythological creation time known as the Dreaming. To Aboriginal eyes the stark desert landscape of the Australian bush is alive with mythological significance and undercurrents of sacred power, which continue to resonate there today.

Each painting is a rich text with complex layers of meaning, which can be stripped away to reveal core issues of aboriginal identity. The aesthetic strategies at work in these dazzling abstract canvases amplify and project these timeless concerns and serve as portals into rich cultural traditions and an age-old way of life.

Desert Dreamscapes Press Release






A survey of Aboriginal Art, at the Susquehanna Museum of Art, in 1995, elucidating the development of style in this then emerging contemporary art movement. The exhibition showcased a wide range of works from objects of material culture, to classic era bark paintings from the Barnett Collection (Bininyiwui, Djawa, Lipunja, Mijau Mijau, and David Malangi whose painting can be seen at left) to early Papunya board paintings (Anatjarri Tjakamarrra, Tim Leura, Clifford Possum, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Billy Stockman, Old Mick Tjakamarrra) to contemporary paintings by artists such as Uta Uta Tjangala, Yala Yala Gibbs, Johnny Warangkula, Rover Thomas, Turkey Tolson and Paddy Jupurulla Nelson.



It's easy to look back at the bark paintings, painted at communities along the top end, in the 1950's and 1960's as something from a golden age. Many great painters and carvers were active and doing highly sophisticated work that was just barely beginning to be recognized at the time. In West Arnhem Land some of these artists were still actively making rock art as well and there work bears a strong connection to this considerably older tradition. In Northeast Arnhem Land artist were producing work of dazzling formal sophistication. This exhibition is a salute to the artists of that era, and to Dorothy Bennett who assembled this collection for American collector Ted Barnett.