Happy Queen’s Jubilee from the Commonwealth’s indigenous artists

Visual arts
Vincent Namatjira. Elizabeth and Vincent (on Country), 2021.  Acrylic on linen. 48 x 60 inches. © Vincent Namatjira/ Courtesy the artist and Fort Gansevoort

A vibrant-looking, good humored show from an unusual clutch of artists — Vincent Namatjira, Kaylene Whiskey, and Tiger Yaltangki, three leading members of the indigenous Indulkana Community in the northwestern region of South Australia — soon opens at the Fort Gansevoort art gallery in New York. Iwantja Rock n Roll, a group exhibition of their new works opens July 9. Two are featured here.

Vincent Namatjira’s bold portraits explore the complexities of colonial history and its lasting effects on Aboriginal Australians. Inserting his own likeness into many of his paintings, Namatjira renders himself in fictional encounters with international political figures, including Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and, in particular, members of the British Royal family. Painting with broad strokes in acrylic, Namatjira juxtaposes the aging Queen Elizabeth II’s visage with the rugged Australian landscape of his homeland. The continuous majestic mountain range fluidly links the individual portraits into a unified composition.

Kaylene Whiskey. Kungkas in Hollywood, 2021. Acrylic on linen. 65.75 x 78 inches. © Kaylene Whiskey/ Courtesy the artist and Fort Gansevoort

Kaylene Whiskey’s work celebrates heroic women, pop culture idols, and Anangu heritage. Whiskey’s chosen subjects include Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, , Cher, Dolly Parton, and Princess Leia. In her painting Kungkas In Hollywood, 2021, Whiskey inserts herself into a fantastical scene where she appears in conversation with Beyoncé and Dolly Parton. The artist refers to these iconic singers as her Kungkas, or her female cohort. Painting her figures in bright colors and in a superflat style, Whiskey fills the entire surface of her works with a kaleidoscopic design formed from images of commercial objects, plants, and wildlife. Utilizing the comic book convention of speech bubbles, the women quip to the viewer.

Iwantja Rock ‘n Roll | Fort Gansevoort New York | opens July 7, thru Aug 20

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