Aussie Abstraction - “Shifting Geometries”

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Also See: Latin Artists Used Abstraction to Rebel Against Nationalism

Artists in the Americas aren't the only ones embracing geometric abstraction. The Australian Embassy is making its own mark on the Washington art scene with its newest exhibit, "Shifting Geometries," which showcases the work of 10 contemporary Australian artists.

The exhibit, which debuted July 11 at a wine-and-cheese reception, features artwork across a wide media spectrum, including paintings and sculptures, among other unconventional styles, such as a gleaming crystal piece in the center of the exhibit.

Contributing artists include: Akira Akira, Melinda Harper, Raafat Ishak, John Nicholson, John Nixon, Nick Selenitsch, Gemma Smith, Bryan Spier, Andrea Tu and Brendan Van Hek.

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Photo: Paul Morigi
The installation view of "Shifting Geometries" at the Embassy of Australia Gallery

Brendan Wall, director of cultural affairs at the Australian Embassy and co-curator of the exhibit, noted that the embassy hosts approximately six art exhibits each year in the gallery adjacent to the building's lobby. All are created by Australian artists whose styles range from aboriginal art to architecture. "Shifting Geometries," though, puts a twist on the more traditional displays of the past.

"This show is sort of a counter to the show on traditional landscapes," Wall told The Diplomat of the embassy's last exhibit. "[It's in part] a tribute to contemporary artists from D.C. from the '70s."

On that note, Australian Ambassador Kim Beazley credited the Washington Color School as a source of inspiration for the 10 artists on display. The Washington Color School was a mid-20th-century group of contemporary painters in Washington that utilized lines and geometry in their art, the echoes of which are clear in the mesmerizing shapes of "Shifting Geometries."

The two-room exhibit does not take long to walk through but is definitely worth multiple rounds as the vast array of colors, patterns and lines provides new details to notice with each passing.

Ambassador Beazley also discussed the openness of Australian diplomacy, but said that hosting art exhibits reveals the true soul of the Australian people. He fondly recalled the first exhibit he attended at the embassy focusing on aboriginal art.

"We display what Australians are really like," the ambassador said. "The story unfolds here, in the exhibit next to us."

He added: "Gradually, we expand the character of Australian characters through these exhibits."

The debut was also of special significance because it was Wall's last exhibit before leaving the embassy. He will be returning to join the Australia Council for the Arts.

Nobody had ever been as dedicated to bringing Australian art to the Washington embassy as Wall, and whoever fills his position has big shoes to fill, Beazley said, drawing applause from the crowd.

— Ryan Schuessler

Shifting Geometries

through Sept. 14
Embassy of Australia
1601 Massachusetts Ave., NW
from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays
For more information, please call (202) 797-3383 or visit www.usa.embassy.gov.au.

Last Edited on July 31, 2012