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Art in non-art institutions

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Date: Since 1962

In the period the art historian Elona Lubytė termed ‘silent modernism’ (1962–1982), unofficial exhibitions were held not only in artists’ studios or residences, but also in various non-art institutions that were home to patrons of modern art and exhibition-initiators. Among the most significant institutions were the club of the LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Writers’ Union, the LSSR State Conservatory, the Urban Planning Institute, the Vaga publishing house (all based in Vilnius), and the Panevėžys Drama Theater, led by the acclaimed director Juozas Miltinis, who cultivated avant-garde ideas in his stage productions. According to contemporaries, the control of the art events that took place inside these institutions was less strict, yet these exhibitions were not advertised by official posters or covered by the press; in other words, they did not receive public attention or official evaluation. Artists’ works were exhibited in lobbies, hallways, offices, and sports and concert halls. Sometimes the unusual exhibition spaces spawned alternative approaches to displaying works of art.


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Exhibitions in the apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys

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Date: 1967–75

Participants: Valentinas Antanavičius (1936), Linas Katinas (1941), Vincas Kisarauskas (1934-1988), Vytautas Šerys (1931-2006), Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933-1999), Vladislovas Žilius (1939), and others

Organizers: Judita and Vytautas Šerys

Location: The apartment of Judita and Vytautas Šerys, Vilnius

Exhibitions were held at the home of the museum worker Judita Šerienė and the artist Vytautas Šerys between 1967 and 1975. This was the first private, unofficial, and unsanctioned exhibition space in Soviet Lithuania. Šerienė worked in the exhibition department of the Art Exhibition Hall[1] at the time, and had access to avant-garde works that were inconsistent with the dominant communist ideology and consequently were not included in official exhibitions. These works were exhibited in solo and group exhibitions organized at the home of Šerys, which were open to a circle of like-minded visitors who exchanged information about unofficial cultural phenomena by word of mouth. The exhibitions at the Šerys home featured works by Valentinas Antanavičius, Linas Katinas, Vincas Kisarauskas, Vytautas Šerys, Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė, Vladislovas Žilius, and others, which were stylistically close to the language of Abstract, Op, and Pop art, or explored other modern ideas and forms of expression. In addition to the exhibitions, the Šerys home hosted improvised poetry readings. It attracted students and intellectuals of the time—artists, writers, and theater people.


[1] The Art Exhibition Hall, opened in 1967, was the most modern and important space for rotating exhibitions in Lithuania. In 1992 it was renamed the Contemporary Art Centre.


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Group Exhibition of Painting

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Date: 22 December 1977

Participants: Valentinas Antanavičius (1936), Eugenijus Cukermanas (1935), Kostas Dereškevičius (1937), Silvestras Džiaukštas (1928), Leonardas Gutauskas (1938), Leonas Katinas (1907-1984), Linas Katinas (1941), Vincas Kisarauskas (1934-1988), Algimantas Kuras (1940), Igoris Piekuras (1935-2006), Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė (1933-2007), Leopoldas Surgailis (1928), Arvydas Šaltenis (1944), Vytautas Šerys (1931-2006), Algirdas Šiekštelė (1931-2008), Ričardas Vaitiekūnas (1953), Nijolė Valadkevičiūtė (1944), and Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933-1999).

Location: LSSR (Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic) Art Workers’ Palace, Vilnius

The “Group Exhibition of Painting” was only open for a few days. A public presentation with the artists on the occasion of the exhibition at the LSSR Art Workers’ Palace was held on December 22, 1977. The event was moderated by the art critic Alfonsas Andriuškevičius (1940).

He recalls, “During a discussion of the exhibition, I simply moved from the work of one artist to the work of another, and interpreted them, giving slight hints at an evaluation. Again, I tried to show how the more innovative means of expression worked. Yet it was mostly artists who participated in the discussion, and so there did not seem to be any very skeptical reactions to these means of expression. Nevertheless, the participating painters were interested in hearing interpretations of their work, and in receiving a few critical insights, although I was by no means an authoritative figure.” Later, “during discussions of Valentinas Antanavičius’s and Eugenijus Antanas Cukermanas’s exhibitions at the Conservatory [in 1981 and 1982, respectively], I mostly had to explain to the public their unconventional means [assemblage and abstract art] of expression (for us), and to prove their legitimacy and functionality. Part of the audience was clearly averse to such art. Besides, I tried to demonstrate that those means of expression produced important meanings, and I tried to counteract the idea that they were just empty, formalist games.”[1]


[1] Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, excerpt from e-mail response, March 2011.


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Conceptual Games

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Date: Autumn 1978

Participants: Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė (1933 – 1999), Gediminas Karalius (1942), Petras Mazūras (1949), and Vladas Vildžiūnas (1932)

Organizers: Vladas Vildžiūnas and Marija Ladigaitė (1931)

Location: Vladas Vildžiūnas and Marija Ladigaitė’s studio and the Jeruzalė sculpture garden, Vilnius

In the late 1970s, the house and the studio of the graphic artist Marija Ladigaitė and the sculptor Vladas Vildžiūnas, as well as the adjacent sculpture garden they had founded in the Vilnius suburb of Jeruzalė (Lithuanian for “Jerusalem”), were popular meeting spots for art and culture personalities, who enjoyed the experimental atmosphere of the place. Ladigaitė and Vildžiūnas hosted informal get-togethers and discussions, during which the guests shared the latest news about the trends in Western modern art and new sculpture-casting technologies, exchanged books, and discussed the exhibitions on display in the studio. The core of the Jeruzalė garden consisted of young sculptors who were interested in avant-garde art trends and flocked around the Vildžiūnas couple; on various occasions, representatives of other spheres of culture visited as well. Several actions, known to their participants and viewers as “Conceptual Games,” were organized in the Jeruzalė garden in 1978. During one event, the textile artist Kazimiera (Kazė) Zimblytė and the sculptors Gediminas Karalius, Petras Mazūras, and Vildžiūnas created site-specific installations and presented them to their friends. “Kazė wrapped the old garden in strips of rice paper, Mazūras inflated a giant intestine, Karalius welded an impromptu constructivist figure, while Vladas weaved rope webs in the crotches of the trees,” recalls Ladigaitė.[1] The processes that took place in the Jeruzalė sculpture garden provided an impetus for the emergence of new artistic forms and ideas—primarily in sculpture—but also in other art fields.


[1] “Marija Ladigaitė, grafikė, Vladas Vildžiūnas, skulptorius. Pokalbis” [Conversation with Marija Ladigaitė, the graphic artist, and Vladas Vildžiūnas, the sculptor], in Quiet Modernism in Lithuania, 1962–1982, ed. Elona Lubytė (Vilnius: Lithuanian Art Museum, Contemporary Art Centre), 201-209.


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