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Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia's Top End

Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia’s Top End

Aboriginal Screen-Printed Textiles from Australia’s Top End

December 5, 2021–June 19, 2022

This exhibition takes us on a journey around northern Australia, known as the “Top End,” and invites us to explore more than 70 distinctive, screen-printed textiles made by contemporary artists at five Aboriginal-owned art centers. Since the 1960s, 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.

Lead support for the publication is provided by the R. L. Shep Endowment Fund at the Fowler Museum, with additional funding from the Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles.

Major support is provided by the Martha and Avrum Bluming Exhibition Fund and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Additional generous funding is provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Fowler Textile Council, Ethnic Arts Council of Los Angeles, the Anne and John Summerfield Fowler Museum Fund, the Anawalt Center for the Study of Regional Dress Fund, the Australian Consulate-General Los Angeles, Mary Herne and David Kenin in memory of Barbara K. Herne, Andrew Adelson, Connie McCreight and Kerry Smallwood.

Publication

A richly illustrated volume accompanies the exhibition. It includes the featured textiles and contextualizes them through essays written by 25 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal artists, printmakers, art center managers, curators, and scholars. Edited by exhibition curator Joanna Barrkman, the book details the history and role of textiles at each art center; the production
process and collaborative nature of screen-printing; product development initiatives; the ecological knowledge informing the fabrics; and the role of this relatively new art form in asserting both traditional and contemporary Aboriginal identity.

This publication received the R.L. Shep Ethnic Textiles Book Award, presented annually to the best book in the field of ethnic textile studies by the Textile Society of America.

It is available in the Fowler Museum Store and online at University of Washington Press.

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