SAM Art: A Different Kind of Storytelling

Next week, the museum’s gallery dedicated to Australian Aboriginal painting will be closed, and the current paintings taken off view. Why? They will be re-studied, re-thought, and re-installed in the museum’s summer exhibition Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art from the Kaplan & Levi Collection.

The paintings currently on view are a first glimpse at the coming exhibition. Deceptively abstract in appearance, these works recount stories of land, of history, of experience, and of Dreaming. This painting tells part of the legend of two brothers who traveled across the Tanami and Great Sandy Desert to teach people about food, fire and hunting, while they were creating many of the land forms.  When they arrived at the vast salt lake, Lake MacKay, they made camp for a night’s rest. The central horizontal line shows the windbreak the constructed, while the parallel lines designate water. Strong white vertical lines represent sandhills.

Can you see the story in this image?

Wati Kutjarra is only on view in the permanent collection galleries through Sunday. It can be seen next in the summer exhibition Ancestral Modern, opening 31 May.

Wati Kutjarra (Two Brothers Dreaming), 2004, Tjumpo Tjapanangka, Australian Aborigine, Kukatja people, Balgo (Wirrimanu), Kimberley/Western Desert, Western Australia, 1929-2007, synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 70 7/8 x 59 1/16 in., Promised gift of Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum. Photo: Susan Cole. © Tjumpo Tjapanangka.