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Richard Bell: I Am Not Sorry
Australia’s foremost – and most controversial – Aboriginal artist exhibits his work for the first time in New York
A Location One International Fellowship exhibition curated by Maura Reilly
Richard Bell, Australia’s leading Aboriginal artist, and one of his country’s most controversial creative talents, will exhibit new and old work in his first-ever US exhibition, “Richard Bell: I Am Not Sorry,” which opens October 8th at Location One.
The exhibition, which is curated by Maura Reilly, is a centerpiece of the Location One International Fellowship awarded to Bell for the 2009 – 2010 season, which he will spend in New York, creating new work and exploring new creative directions under Location One’s auspices.
Brisbane-based Richard Bell is one of Australia’s most talked-about artists. Bell’s works address — and protest — the commodification of indigeneity in the western art market. They draw attention to frustrations and grievances brought about through the European colonization of Australia. His paintings play with the practice of appropriation, often mining the Pop Art styles of Roy Lichtenstein and Jasper Johns, the paint drips of Jackson Pollock, or the dot matrix style of Aboriginal painter Emily Kngwarreye while including texts that complicate the way we think about racism and race politics.
Aboriginal Art—it’s a white thing (2002), included in the exhibition, is one of the artist’s famous ‘Theorems’, in which he accuses the contemporary art world of manipulating and exploiting indigenous art. In his most recent ‘Theorem’, titled Pay the Rent (2009), Bell demands of the colonizers that they pay in back rent what they owe to the colonized Aborigines since ‘the invasion’ in 1788. Likewise, in a provocative recent video, Scratch an Aussie (2008), Bell plays reversal politics by charading as a black Sigmund Freud who psychoanalyzes racist white Australians. The exhibition will also feature a new video Broken English (2009) in which Bell plays chess with indigenous politics, asking white and black Australians why Aborigines appear to lack a vision for their own future.
This survey exhibition also comprises critical works from the early 1990s, including a photographic series in which the artist presents himself in a series of stereotypical roles imposed upon indigenous males: “drinker”,”failure”,”trouble maker”; while in another early text piece, as spokesperson for all indigenous peoples from “The Lucky Country”(aka Australia), Bell seeks to initiate an “emigrant enhancement program”with countries like China, Iraq, South African, Taiwan, and so forth, with a view to making treaties in order to gain parliamentary representation and sovereignty of lands.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of events, including a public lecture by the artist, as well as a two film programs curated by Richard Bell featuring Walkabout (1971), Rabbit Proof Fence (2002), and Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) —as well as the important local documentary Incident at Oglala (1992).
About Richard Bell
Location One is extremely grateful to QIAMEA (Queensland Indigenous Arts Marketing & Export Agency), to the Australia Council for the Arts and extends special thanks to Josh Milani for invaluable help in making this fellowship and exhibition possible.