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Exhibition by painters Līga Purmale and Miervaldis Polis

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Date: August 1974

Participants: Līga Purmale and Miervaldis Polis

Location: Riga Photo Club in the Central Printing Workers’ Club

This exhibition of photorealist works by fourth year Art Academy students Miervaldis Polis and Līga Purmale was the first serious manifestation of its kind not just in Soviet Latvia, but also in the wider region. It was unprecedented for students to organize an exhibition on their own initiative open to all outside the academy. To make it happen, the artists had to collect recommendations and permits from almost ten different institutions. The artists vividly recall[1] an episode in which members of the Central Committee suddenly turned up at the exhibition, apparently on the basis of an anonymous report that one of the paintings made a mockery of Lenin. But while the painting Brass Band (1974) did have a figure of a little trumpet player in a peaked cap in the foreground, it bore no resemblance to the proletariat leader.

At one of the exhibition’s public discussions, the artists were approached by Estonian art enthusiast Matti Miliuss, who subsequently arranged for the exhibition to be presented at the Deaf Persons’ Society in Tartu and the Tallinn Art Institute in Estonia.

The exhibition gained a lot of public attention despite receiving no press coverage. This resonance was connected with the unabashedly photorealist and hyperrealist manner of painting. The exhibited works formally complied with the official line of Soviet art—realism—but in reality they were much closer to contemporary trends in Western art. The professional art scene greeted the young artists with a mixture of genuine admiration and resigned or harsh criticism, but in time Purmale and Polis would come to be regarded as masters of the genre.


[1] An interview with M. Polis in May, 2011.



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Models – Māris Ārgalis’s solo exhibition

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Date: November–December 1978

Participant: Māris Ārgalis

Location: Exhibition hall of the Republican House of Science, Riga

This was the first solo exhibition for 25-year-old Māris Ārgalis. At the time he was one of the most creative artists, who openly provoked the authorities both through his work and personal attitude.

Ārgalis came to the attention of the art world thanks to his surrealist and hyperrealist graphics. His visionary urban-environment plans, photo collages, and spatial objects were just as original, breaking boundaries and pointing towards collaborative art practices. In the “Models” exhibition, the artist playfully turned the surrounding environment into an equal partner in the artwork, involving the viewers and provoking spontaneous actions.

The various segments of the exhibition synthesized into a whole and the artworks “stepped out” from the illusionary world into the physical space. For instance, the graphic works were complemented by spatial-cube modules that the viewers could shift around, thus becoming coauthors of the work. The city landscape visible through the glass of the windows that the graphics were displayed on also became part of the artwork. The photomontage series Bizarred Riga by Ārgalis’s informal Emissionist Group was a rare example of unambiguously critical, ironic commentaries and interpretations of the urban environment in 1970s Latvian art.


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