Rattling Spears

A History of Indigenous Australian Art

Ian McLean

Rattling Spears

Ian McLean

Distributed for Reaktion Books

272 pages | 130 color plates, 20 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 3/4 | © 2016
Cloth $39.00 ISBN: 9781780235905 Published July 2016 For sale in North and South America only
Large, bold, and colorful, Indigenous Australian art—sometimes known as Aboriginal art—has impressed itself on the contemporary art scene, becoming one of the most popular arts in the world. In this book, Ian McLean tells the improbable story of how a culture once viewed as one of the most primitive in the world invented its own distinct forms of modernism and conquered the contemporary art world.
           
Beginning with its collision with modernity in the late eighteenth century, McLean looks at Indigenous Australian art as a complex practice that brought the world’s oldest aesthetic traditions into the modern era. Taking readers beyond hype, cliché, and political correctness, he explores the different regional variations, styles, materials, and approaches, examining artists as wide-ranging as the Wanjina ancestors and anonymous rock artists of the early colonial period to the stars of the contemporary art scene such as Emily Kngwarreye and Gordon Bennett. Beautifully illustrated, this book offers not just a stunning introduction to this rich artistic tradition but a way of rethinking modern and contemporary art writ large. 
Contents
Introduction
Empire
                1 Origin stories: The dreamtime in Botany Bay, 1770
                2 Indigenous art and empire in Sydney, 1788-1830
                3 Post-contact indigenous art in the Australian colonies, 1835-1900
Nation
                4 Indigenous art in white Australia, 1900-1970
                5 The invention of indigenous contemporary art, 1970-1990
Post-Western
                6 Remote masters, 1985-2015
                7 Post-identity: Urban indigenous art
Conclusion: A theory of indigenous art in the age of modernity
References
Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index
 
Review Quotes
Bookforum
“Mclean’s radical hut commonsense approach is to show how indigenous artists responded to and engaged with modernity, beginning with Captain Cook anchoring off the coast in 1770. Mclean treats contemporary indigenous artists not as ‘pure,’ to be kept safe from Western culture, but as actively engaged with modernism, and in fact quite successful at making a place for their art in today’s world, while operating in both modern and traditional temporal frames. He deploys current critical terminology fluidly, insisting on a transcultural context for the art, while also explaining the ‘Dreaming,’ the still-evolving mythopoeic sagas about ancestral beings and spirits that animate indigenous thought. He is clear-eyed about the roles that marketing, ambitious anthropologists, and cannily entrepreneurial indigenous artists played in the late-twentieth-century marketing of this work. The text is illustrated by a spare but well-chosen selection of nicely printed reproductions.”
 
Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh
Rattling Spears: A History of Indigenous Australian Art is the first comprehensive art historical account of this fascinating topic. It tells a clear and compelling story of the complex development of indigenous art in Australia, from the first encounters between indigenous and European explorers in the later eighteenth century right up to the present, as this ‘contact art’ manifests itself as one of the major movements within contemporary world art.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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