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Aboriginal vision


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One of the most striking pieces of art I've seen lately is this Australian Aboriginal bark painting of a fish, from the Northern Territories, made around 1920. One expert noticed how it resembled Aboriginal rock art--images scratched onto rocks by the inhabitants of western Arnhem Land, similar to Native American petroglyphs--but what struck me was the way the fish's simple profile is cut away to reveal skeleton and guts. There's no precise cutaway boundary; this is no textbook cross section. Rather this style--common to the tribes in Arnhem Land--expresses a vision of a living being in which inside and outside are not seen as separate entities. Photographic realism is sacrificed to a deeper one--the fish's insides are what one sees when one cleans it, but they're also what make the living fish's outsides possible.

This and other works will be on view at the exhibit of Santa Fe's Taylor A. Dale gallery, one of 97 exhibitors at the first annual Chicago American Indian and Tribal Art Show, running Saturday and Sunday at the downtown Hyatt Regency. Taylor A. Dale specializes in tribal art from Africa, Oceania, and North America; other dealers will be displaying textiles, pottery, jewelry, headdresses, weapons, and more--art and artifacts from pre-Columbian times to the 40s. The show is open 10 to 7 Saturday, 11 to 5 Sunday, and admission is $10 a day; the Hyatt is at 151 E. Wacker. Call 489-6072 or 565-1234, ext. 7715, for more information.

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