Storytelling in Bali: Paintings from the Bateson-Mead Collection

Ahmanson Building, Level 4
April 1, 2017–July 2, 2017
Storytelling in Bali: Paintings from the Bateson-Mead Collection Exhibition Image

The 13 paintings on display come from a collection of over 800 paintings that once belonged to cultural anthropologists Gregory Bateson (1904–1980) and Margaret Mead (1901–1978), who lived in Bali between the years 1936 and 1939. The paintings were collected while the couple conducted their renowned psychological study, Balinese Character. For Bateson and Mead, the paintings served as a window into the Balinese psyche. Produced by a group of artists working in the village of Batuan who had been developing a new genre of black-and-white paintings on paper in the decade prior to Bateson and Mead’s arrival in Bali, the works are inspired by various forms of Balinese storytelling including dance, drama, and the form of shadow puppetry known as wayang kulit, traditions that continue to be a source of entertainment today. Many of the stories are drawn from epic narratives of Hindu and Buddhist mythology that were transmitted from India in the early Common Era, and subsequently translated into local legends. Several expatriate Western artists were instrumental in the development of this unique painting style, including the Russian painter Walter Spies, the Dutch artist Rudolf Bonnet, and the Mexican painter Miguel Covarrubias.

This installation was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Image: I Dewa Kompiang Ketut Kandel, Story of Kala Rahu (Betara Kala devouring the moon), scene from Adiparwa, July 29, 1937, Indonesia, Bali, Ink and color on paper, Collection of Robert Lemelson.