The Inside World: Contemporary Aboriginal Australian Memorial Poles from the Debra and Dennis Scholl Collection opened virtually on July 11 at Frost Art FIU.
On view until January 10, 2021, the exhibition presents approximately 100 works by contemporary Aboriginal artists. The artists included in the exhibition come from Arnhem Land, a historical region in the Northern Territory of Australia.
“The Inside World is an exciting opportunity to introduce a thoroughly new artform to our FIU students, faculty and South Florida communities. These memorial poles mesh an ancient Aboriginal ritual with contemporary art practice. We are grateful to the Scholls for introducing us to these complex and vibrant works that are joyous and magnificent,” said Jordana Pomeroy, the museum's director.
These poles traditionally served as hollow log coffins, marking the final point in Aboriginal mortuary rites. Known by different regional names, including lorrkkon in the west and larrakitj in the east, the poles signified the moment when the spirit of the deceased had finally returned home—when they had left all vestiges of the mundane “outside” world and become one with the “inside” world of the ancestral realm.
Today, Aboriginal artists create these hollow log coffins as works of art. John Mawurndjul, who was recently honored with a retrospective at the Museum Tinguely in Basel, observes: “The old ways of doing things have changed into the new ways. The new generation does things differently. But me, I have two ways. I am the old and the new.”
While Mawurndjul and other Aboriginal artists featured here have achieved prominence globally, their art remains firmly rooted in traditional customs and ancient narratives.
The Inside World, organized by the Nevada Museum of Art, draws from the collection of Miami-based collectors Debra and Dennis Scholl. The exhibition catalog, edited by Henry F. Skerritt, explores the complex histories of memorial poles in Australia.
“The presentation of this exhibition furthers our mission to bring exhibitions to Miami that offer diverse and divergent perspectives. The Inside World expands on traditional narratives of art and brings forth new names and places not often considered within conversations about contemporary art—these memorial poles allow us to reflect and learn more about the indigenous arts of Australia,” said Amy Galpin, Frost Art chief curator.