The Most Interesting Spring Exhibitions in Baltics
Agita Salmiņa and Arterritory.com 16/04/2014
Vija Celmiņa, “Dubultā realitāte” / “Double Reality” The Main Gallery of the Art Museum Riga Bourse, Riga April 12 – June 22, 2014
Vija Celmiņa (1938) is one of the most sought-after artists of the 21st century – two years ago, her drawing, “Untitled #8”, sold at New York's Christie’s auction house for US $1,142,500. Done in graphite on paper, the rendering of a celestial sky being split by the tail of a comet is the artist's priciest piece so far. The infinitely deep worlds that Celmiņa conjures-up on flat planes of paper are highly demanded by collectors – who are more than willing to wait in line for one of her works, since each one takes months to complete.
From April 12 through June 22, the Main Gallery in the Art Museum Riga Bourse will be the one rare place in Europe where one can see so many of Celmiņa's works gathered together in one spot. The exhibition, “Double Reality”, spans fifty years of the artist's creative career – from 1964 to 2014. It is also a sort of “home-coming” to Celmiņa's birthplace of Riga. Celmiņa spent only the first six years of her life in Latvia – in 1944, together with her mother, father and sister, WWII forced the family to flee Latvia. After four years spent in refugee camps in Germany, the family was able to emigrate to America, and Celmiņa celebrated her tenth birthday on a new continent; Celmiņa still lives in the US today.
Newly arrived in the USA, Celmiņa could neither speak nor write English, and this language barrier led to her spending a lot of time drawing and painting, both at home and in school. Nevertheless, Celmiņa decided to become a painter only in 1961, after having spent a summer semester with a powerful contingent of art students and artists at Yale University in New Haven. She left her parents' home and moved to Los Angeles, staying there until 1980, which is when she moved to New York.
The keys to Celmiņa's success, as she herself states, are hard work and making sure to never stray away from view. And after more than thirty years of following this regimen, it began to pay off. It was specifically Celmiņa's drawings that brought her world-wide recognition – white sheets of paper filled with fragile, gray spiderwebs... with shadowy, undulating oceanic waves... or with an infinite number of constellations on the backdrop of a dark cosmos. As for her methods, Celmiņa draws from photographs. During her thirty-year retrospective in London in 1996, the UK newspaper, The Independent, called Celmiņa “the best-kept secret in American art”.
The works on display in Riga have been assembled from numerous world-class museums and collections: the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the National Art Gallery in Washington, DC; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Frankfurt (am Main) Museum of Modern Art; the Fondation Cartier Contemporary Art Center in Paris; the Tate Gallery in London; the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; the collection of the USA Embassy in Latvia: the Mūkusalas Mākslas Salons collection, the Latvian National Art Museum's permanent collection; and the McKee Gallery in New York, as well as from the artist's own collection of artworks.
“Marc Chagall and Europe's Avant-Garde” Daugavpils Mark Rothko Art Center April 24 – July 10, 2014
Marc Chagall and Mark Rothko are names that need no introduction. But if you want to find out what these two artists have in common, head to the Mark Rothko Art Center in Daugavpils where, along with the Center's first year anniversary celebrations, April 24 will see the opening of the exhibition, “Marc Chagall and Europe's Avant-Garde”. The works on display come from the collection of the Marc Chagall Museum in Vitebsk, and include the artist's illustrations for Nikolai Gogol's poem, “Dead Souls” (1923-1925), colored lithographs for Bible illustrations (1956-1960), and the lithograph series, “12 Tribes of Israel” (1960).
From Chagall's personal standpoint, his Bible illustrations were perhaps the most important of his works, having worked on them for several decades through the study of works by Rembrandt and El Greco. In Chagall's own words, the Bible was the most beautiful poetry that he had ever read, and he kept it close to him throughout his life. The artist's contemporary yet sensitive approach to the contents of the Old Testament was notable not only in terms of religious history, but also in terms of art history. A continuations of this theme was his work, “12 Tribes of Israel” (1960) – twelve stained glass windows for a Jerusalem synagogue. It was Chagall's masterpiece in the technique of stained glass – he was very adept at playing with light and bringing the images to life. Along with the originals by Chagall, the Daugavpils exhibition will also feature lithographs by several other 20th century artists, including Brock, Matisse, Miro and Picasso, among others.
The imaginative world created by Marc Chagall and other avant-garde artists will be complemented by the futuristic exhibition-installation, “BLACK”, by the Polish artist Marek Radke, in which the artist invites the viewer to take part in his game of space, light, form and color.
René Koch and Willian Wetzel, “Atmiņu lāde” / “Memoria Box” The Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art Office Gallery, Riga March 28 – April 23, 2014
Having to define anything can be a complex task, but having to define yourself can be the most daunting of all. How difficult, and actually impossible, it is to create a unifying definition for a time, a nation, and a historical situation, is illustrated by the installation, “Memoria Box”, by the German artists, René Koch and Willian Wetzel,specially for the city of Riga and the gallery of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art. The two artists have defined Riga in a historical context as having surpassed nationalism by being a place where pagan, Christian and Jewish traditions intertwine with one another. For their starting point they have utilized elements from the renaissance-era, ethnographic drawings of the Germanic artist Johann Christoph Brotz, as well as paintings from Roman catacombs, Torah scrolls, and church frescoes and architecture.
Koch and Wetzel live and work in Berlin, and both graduated from Ulrike Grosarth's interdisciplinary art master-class at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. After their master's studies, Wetzel studied religion and culture at the Humboldt University of Berlin, whereas Koch studied Judeo-Christian relations at the Free University of Berlin. As a result of their post-graduate studies, both artists became interested in the subjective, and as-of-yet-unstudied, relationships between culture and historic imagery. Preceding the “Memoria Box” project, they created the installation, “Kammer der Blumen und Vögel” / “The Chamber of Flowers and Birds” (2011), in Dresden, as well as images for the Centre for Jewish Studies in Berlin (2013). All of the artists' co-productions have been site-specific.
Anthony Faroux, John Cornu, Michael Castaignet, Kristaps Ģelzis: “Till the end of it” “Māksla XO” gallery, Riga May 1 – 27, 2014
Opening on May 1st, the group show, “Till the end of it”, at the “Māksla XO” gallery will give viewers a look at how the gallery's four selected artists express influences of modernism in their works. The show's organizers, however, stress that this is not an exhibition on modernism, nor is it the show's goal to point out historical references in the works of the chosen artists. It is an exhibition that features the aesthetic characteristics of modernism that have been achieved through the manipulation of the materials subjected.
For instance, the collages of French artist Anthony Faroux (1971) recall the works of Henri Matisse, even though they are actually leaves that have been cut to show their inner qualities. The latest works by the Latvian artist Kristaps Ģelzis (1962) may lead one to think of Gustavs Klucis, but Ģelzis has built his constructions from adhesive tape. French artist Michael Castaignet (1971) simply follows the logic of collage-making in his paintings, but they do look a lot like the constructs of Daniel Buren. And in the search for suprematism, as illustrated by the fourth member of the show – French artist John Cornu (1976), one sees elements borrowed from Kazimir Malevich; however, in Cornu's works, the formal requests of the modernism era have become a necessity. The works of all four artists point to forms that inadvertently hint at the legacy of others, even though their jump-off points were completely different.
The central event of Riga Photo Month, which will take place May 8 to June 5, is the group show “Urban Viewfinders. Baltic and Nordic Contemporary Photography”, which will be held at the Riga Art Space. It will be the bringing together of works by fifteen photographers that have concentrated on the specifics of this region, and that also fall under the theme of “human soul-searching in today's social environment”.
A promise of intrigue comes with the solo show by Swedish photographer Dawid (Björn Dawidson, 1949), also right there in the Riga Art Space. His 1983 exhibition in Stockholm, “ROST” / “RUST”, was the source of much discussion and marked a turning point in Swedish contemporary photography – Dawid was labeled as the last modernism photographer, as well as the first post-modernism photographer. It is the works from this legendary series that will be on view in Riga. The first “RUST” images were made in 1982, and there are currently about one hundred of them. Dawid creates the images without the aid of a camera – he makes them through the technique of photogramming: onto large-scale negatives he places various objects – such as tin sheets, tools and such – all of which share the characteristic of being rusty; the negative is subjected to light, and then developed, from which a photographic enlargement is made.
Two Latvian photographers will be taking part in the group show – Ieva Epnere and Ivars Grāvlejs. Grāvlejs is known for his conceptual approach to photography, as well as for his affinity for social critique and irony; Arnis Balčus, one of the curators for Riga Photo Month, has even said that Grāvlejs has a “hooligan's attitude towards photography”. Whereas Ieva Epnere, who also works with other mediums besides photography, in interested in revealing the environment of the urban suburbs, small towns and other peripheral habitats. One can see a visibly anthropological approach in her works in which she studies diverse human social groups. Marge Monko and Paul Kuimet will make up the Estonian contingent in the exhibition, while Mindaugs Azusils and Indre Šerpitite will represent Lithuania. The rest of the photographers will come from Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway.
Worth highlighting is the solo show of Latvian photographer Māra Brašmane (1944); titled “Pārmaiņu laiks” / “Changing Times”, it will be on view beginning with May 9, at the “Arsenāls” exhibition hall, in the Creative Workshop on the second floor. The show is an homage to the main building of the Latvian National Art Museum located at Krišjāņa Valdemāra iela 10a, and which is currently under reconstruction. With new exhibition galleries in both the attic and underground levels, as well as the introduction of elevators and comprehensive restoration work throughout the structure, the building will have gained a completely new identity. Making use of this opportunity, Brašmane captured the moment when most of the art collection, archive and administrative inventory had been removed, the walls had been stripped, and doors that had been locked for years – even to the staff – had been finally opened.
Riga Photo Month is an official event of the “Riga 2014” cultural program. A whole slew of great activities are planned for the month, including photographic presentations, self-publishing events and film screenings. Also scheduled is a portfolio viewing on May 9, in the Latvian National Library, giving emerging and professional photographers theopportunity to meet one-on-one with professionals in the field and receive advice, suggestions and constructive criticism. This European Capital of Culture event is an excellent platform for those who long for a professional evaluation of their work and who are seeking advice in terms of their conceptual approach or career development. Photographers who are still in the early stages of their projects and/or are looking for their creative self are warmly welcome. For more information on this and other Photo Month events, go to: www.rigaphotomonth.com.
Darius Žiūra, “SWIM” Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius April 10 – May 18, 2014
Darius Žiūra (1968) is a well-known video artist. He tries to do as little editing as possible in his work, thereby giving the viewer a real sense of the flow of time. At the same time, his video works have the ability to completely crush any sense of reality, making one feel as if one is standing on the edge of a fictitious world.
It is important for Žiūra to speak about socially painful issues, such as the loss of a loved one, the exhaustion that comes from living, and the scars that the soviet era has left on people's lives (“Gustoniai”, 2001). Žiūra believes that words are not necessary – a person's features and facial expressions speak for themselves and reveal their owner's life story.
This will be the artist's third solo show at the Vilnius Contemporary Art Centre (CAC), and will be a compilation of his latest works. The unifying elements of the show are themes that balance on the border between being socially acceptable and illegal, but nevertheless, are an intrinsic part of life; they are of-the-moment, but ignored. The title of the show, “SWIM”, is an acronym for “Someone who isn't me”. Žiūra continues this play on words with the alternative meanings of “Someone who I've met” and “Someone who is me”.
Žiūra took part in the European contemporary art festival, Manifesta 7 (2008), in Italy.
Šiuolaikinio meno centras Vokieciu 2 Vilnius, Lithuania www.cac.lt
Arunas Gudaitis, “Pieces and Parts” Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius April 10 – May 18, 2014
The collective subconscious is a pressing subject for the Lithuanian artist Arunas Gudaitis (1973) – his goal is to break down the stereotypes that people have accrued and to create new ones through the manipulation of clichés. Gudaitis likes to play with meanings by using the methods of destructivism – knocking down the essence of something by either trying to get to its core, or the exact opposite – by realizing that there is no core. At the center of attention of his latest solo show, “Pieces and Parts”, is the legacy left by Western sculpture. By playing with both the original and copies or reinterpretations of it, Gudaitis studies how this back-and-forth can influence the perception of the object as a whole. Gudaitis works primarily with video art, sculpture and performance art. His works have been shown in the Baltic States, Switzerland, Germany and Finland, and his work, “White Pieces”, received the Estonian Art Museum Prize in 2008.
Šiuolaikinio meno centras Vokieciu 2 Vilnius, Lithuania www.cac.lt
Köler Prize 2014 Finalist Show: Kärt Ojavee, Kiwa, Visible Solutions, Johannes Säre, Jass Kaselaan Estonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Tallinn April 26 – June 15, 2015
This show featuring the works of the five finalists for the 2014 Estonian contemporary art award, the Köler Prize, presents a vivid cross-section of the current contemporary art scene in Estonia.
Textile artist Kärt Ojavee creates interactive textiles in cooperation with the Centre for Biorobotics. The way that Ojavee plays with texture and the interpretation of fabric in her large-format installations is simply breathtaking. The fashion line KO!, of which Ojavee is the director, is well known for its project, Symbiosis O – a textile that reacts to the surrounding environment by changing its color and texture.
Kiwa is someone who could be labeled as a “multi-artist” – he works in various art forms (painting, music, conceptual objects) and melds them together into one unifying artwork. The search for hyper-textual meanings, the creation of a cultural code, and the reflection of societal and personal myths are characteristic features of Kiwa's work. He is best described with the phrase: “A labyrinth within a labyrinth”.
Visible Solutions (Karel Kompli, Taaniel Raudsepp and Sigrid Viir) is an artistic group that utilizes capitalism and the manifestations thereof as its main themes. The group will be presenting a work that they themselves describe as conceptual, and that makes the viewer reassess both his values and the mechanism by which these values are allocated.
Johannes Säre (1983) is a promising Estonian photographer who concentrates on autobiographical photo portraiture. He is better known from his work within the artistic group JIM (Johannes Säre, Iti Kasser and Maido Juss).
Jass Kaselaan (1981) is making his debut on the stage of Estonian art by working with large-format sculptures and placing them within symbolic spaces and giving them an aural context. Kaselaan received the Anton Starkopf Annual Sculpture Award in 2011, and represented Estonia during “Art Days 2013” in Riga.
Esti Kaasaegse Kunsti Museum Põhja pst 35 Tallinn, Estonia www.ekkm.ee
Nikoloai Triik, “Classics of the Modernist Era” Estonian Museum of Contemporary Art KUMU, Tallinn May 30 – September 28, 2014
Nikolai Triik (1884-1940) was a pioneer in Estonian modern art, as well as one of the better known Estonian avant-garde artists. This summer, in honor of the 130th year of Triik's birth, Tallinn's KUMU is organizing one of the most comprehensive exhibitions of the artist's work in the last 30 years. Triik's body of work was varied – portraits, illustrations, caricatures and landscapes. He began his career with satirical political comics and book illustrations, but his most popular works were created after his Norwegian period (Triik spent a lot of time abroad – in Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg as well): “Going to War”, “Airplane” and “Struggle”. His bold brush strokes and dark, expressive shades have led many to compare him with Edvard Munch, the famous 19th-century Norwegian painter and Triik's peer.
Triik's work is closely linked to the Noor-Eesti (New Estonian) group, which was mainly composed of writers and whose main objective was to bring Estonia's culture to an international and modern plane – and at which they succeeded.
Kestutis Zapkus, “A Retrospective of Painting” Lithuania's National Art Gallery, Vilnius April 11 – June 1, 2014
Just like Vija Celmiņa is the most famous Latvian-American artist, Kestutis Zapkus (1938) is one of the most famous Lithuanian-American artists – born in Lithuania, but raised in Chicago.
According to his manner of painting, Zapkus is of the “New York School” – a distinct abstractionist who mostly works on large canvases, thereby creating a feeling that is free of time and space. Every square centimeter of his paintings is a painting in itself – an expanse in which to loose one's sense of reality. Zapkus frequently spends years on one painting. It is characteristic of Zapkus to create an artwork by basing it on musical compositions and architectural principles, as well as combining his abstractions with studies of social themes.
After Lithuania regained independence, Zapkus returned to Lithuania and taught at the Vilnius Academy of Art, thereby leaving a prominent path for future generations to follow. This is the first and largest exhibition of Zapkus' works in Lithuania and the Baltics.
Nacionaline Dailes galerija Konstitucijos pr.22 Vilnius, Lithuania www.ndg.lt
Josephine Pryde, “Knickers, Berlin” Temnikova & Kasela gallery, Tallinn April 18 – May 24, 2014
Jospehine Pryde (1967) is a Berlin-based British artist and a professor at the Berlin Art Academy. She experiments with various techniques and photography styles in an attempt to expand the limits of the medium. Her works are visually expressive, dense with symbolism and critical of society. In her photography she conjures up another dimension, leading the viewer to think on a level that is both cerebral and emotional. Pryde has taken part in several exhibitions in the US and Europe, and individual works of hers can be found in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. This a wonderful chance to see her works locally – right next door, in Tallinn.