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Art gallery of western australia           
AGWA media
28 July 2015
Whiteley's The American dream on display as part of American dream, American nightmare
15 August 2015 – 15 February 2016 | FREE

After extensive work by AGWA’s conservation team, Brett Whiteley’s iconic painting The American dream 1968-1969 is back in all its fractured splendour to feature in a two-part Collection display American dream, American nightmare.

Robert Cook, AGWA Curator of International Contemporary Art, says of Whiteley’s work, “The American dream is a dynamic visual summation of his experiences in America, that charts his initial passion for the place, his intense responses to the politics and culture, and his powerful desire to leave it all behind."

“It is a meditation on the crumbling of Whiteley’s own romantic dream of what America might offer him and a reflection on a society torn apart by its involvement in the Vietnam war and the assassinations of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Martin Luther King,” he continued.

American dream, American nightmare will be displayed in two parts, examining the duality of the American experience: the dream and the nightmare.

British artist David Hockney’s Hogarth-inspired, set of 16 prints, A rake’s progress 1961-1963, will complement Whiteley’s work for the first four months of the American dream presentation.

“Hockney’s work tells, in a dreamlike way, the story of his personally tumultuous time as a young artist in America. He enters the country full of hope and optimism and leaves it as a rake, dissolute and softened by his encounters," Cook stated.

The second half of the display, the nightmare, takes over in late December and presents darker, political works by American artists, such as Leon Golub, which explore the dark underside of the American dream.

The American dream has recently received significant conservation treatment prior to its inclusion in the survey of Australian and international Pop art Pop to Popism at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Senior Conservator of Paintings Dr Maria Kubik enjoyed the scale and complexity of the treatment, "When cleaning, consideration had to be given to what dirt was original, such as Brett Whiteley’s fingerprints, paint splashes and food from his studio. Such ‘dirt’ is left intact as part of the artist’s process. Similarly, only areas of loss after the work left the studio were retouched to prevent the addition of new material over Whiteley’s paint."

American dream, American nightmare is a free exhibition on display at the Art Gallery of WA from 15 August 2015 until 15 February 2016.

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For more information, interviews and imagery please contact Tanya Sticca on 9492 6692 or email
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Brett Whiteley The American dream 1968-69. Oil, tempera, collage, photography and objects on eighteen wooden panels, 244 x 2196 cm. State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia. Purchased 1978. © State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia.
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