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Catherine De Lorenzo, ‘Challenging the paradigm: rethinking Aboriginal art within Australia’s art history’: a review

21 August 2018

Challenging the paradigm: rethinking Aboriginal art within Australia’s art history

Review of:

Susan Lowish, Rethinking Australia’s art history: The challenge of Aboriginal art, New York & Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018, 236 pp., 18 col. plates, 61 b. & w. illus., £115.00 [AUD242.00] hdbk, £20.50 [AUD34.55] ebk ISBN 9780815374176 (hbk), ISBN 9781351049986 (ebk)

Catherine De Lorenzo (UNSW Art & Design, University of New South Wales, Sydney, and Monash Art Design and Architecture, Melbourne 19/CDL1

Abstract: In Rethinking Australia’s art history: The challenge of Aboriginal art, Susan Lowish argues for a new approach to thinking about the discourse on Aboriginal art within Australian art history. Aboriginal art, whether encountered in exhibitions or books and other writings, has come to define much contemporary Australian art, and today Australian art history certainly reflects these trends. If art history is largely a Eurocentric discipline, it is worth asking what a revised disciplinary paradigm might be like when challenged by a wholly different ontology. In this timely book, Lowish does not so much look at Aboriginal art as the writings on it by white observers, administrators and scholars from 1788 to 1929. If much of this source material is demeaning and uniformed, the same cannot be said of Lowish’s analysis, which effectively provides a basis for further research into the period she defines, and beyond.

Key words: Australian art history, Aboriginal art, anthropology and art, evolutionism and art, Sir George Grey, Baldwin Spencer, exhibiting Aboriginal art

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