Kluge Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum Reflections

Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Museum Visit

February 21st, 2008


By Tim Perry

My initial impressions about the Kluge-Ruhe Museum are mixed. At first, I thought that I would not really like the Aboriginal art because I usually don’t like that genre, but I was pleasantly surprised by my visit. The Worrell house that has been adapted as an art museum was a bit of a surprise. It was a great house, but obviously not a proper place to exhibit aboriginal art. Neither the genre, nor the functional characteristics match for these two passing ships. It seems as if the University of Virginia could find a better way to serve both the collection and the house with some re-consideration and re-allocation of resources.

The art itself was very interesting in style, size, and artistic impression. I especially liked the work of Samantha Hobson. If I had a large fortune to invest in art, she would be definitely be one of my favorites. Several of the other artists also invoked some interesting reactions with their work. It was quite helpful to have Margo give us a tour of the artwork. Her knowledge and insight provided a deep contextual element to our experience. I was also struck by how this was a small one or two-person operation that was both unique and also somewhat “under-resourced”. Charlottesville is so fortunate to have one of the few museums of aboriginal art, yet it seems to be a bit of a poor “red-headed stepchild” in comparison to many of the museums that house much of our western variety of art.

The video was helpful in that we got to see the artists, but I would like to have seen more of them “at work” in their art and discussing the meaning of their work in some deeper manner. The video did not do justice to all of the artists, and the lackluster production value and style detracted from the potential creative insights that many of the artists may have been able to impress upon the audience. In addition, the lack of space does not allow for viewing of any type of permanent exhibits or artifacts. I would like to see some of the “best” of the art of each style or type from the Kluge Ruhe collection. The labeling of the art was well done and simple as it most likely should be. However, as a “scientific” minded person, I would like to see a bit of a scheme of either style or type applied to some of the art if possible. Some was more impressionistic, while other art was more of the dot-structure painting. Margo did a good job explaining some of this, but I am still unclear on the exact meaning, function, or relationship between these different styles or genres.

The anthropological perspectives were also a bit intriguing in how age and wisdom seem to denote wider allowances for artistic expressionism within their culture. I also wonder just how much of the current art is still considered truly “aboriginal” in nature since there really are not any true aboriginal peoples living in the wilds of Australia today. The study room and other information may provide some answers to this and I presume that much of the art produced is not only expressionistic, but also somehow a way to preserve aspects of their previous culture. However, these types of relationships were not clearly defined and perhaps should not be for the sake of the visitor’s artistic experience. Overall, I had a good time and wish I could afford to purchase one of Samatha Hobson’s paintings.


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