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(Fragment.) Riikka Hyvönen (1982). Fresh Meat In Fishnets! 2015. Photo: Petri Virtanen

A guide to the exhibition “With Seven-league Boots. Stop – Finland.” 0

Our choice of the top five works to see 

Auguste Petre

From November 25, 2017 to January 7, 2018, the Art Museum Riga Bourse will be showing an exhibition featuring pop art from Finland’s Kiasma museum. While the establishment of Latvia’s Contemporary Art Museum is underway, the Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation continues to present contemporary art collections from the Baltic region.

In the context of modern art, a controversial transformation is most frequently ascribed to the 21st century, which is when the contemporary artist often converted into a contemporary multi-artist. Over time, the role of the artist as interpreter of the global zeitgeist has grown; due to a multitude of changes, at the centre of the world we no longer find the person, but the products that this person consumes. These sorts of visual forms of expression led to pop art, which finds inspiration in the public environment, in advertising, and in the mass media.

This style of art blossomed and quickly developed in the USA at the end of the 1960s, however, its true point of inception was London. In 1954, the art critic Lawrence Alloway used the concept when explaining popular art influenced by mass culture. Two years later, Whitechapel Gallery hosted the first pop art exhibition, This is Tomorrow, whose theme developed the already begun interpretation of contemporaneity in art – it combined photographs, installations and collages that reflected the core of the world at that point in time, namely, advertising and technology. In the frame of pop art, art is not an abstract mirror of reality but a direct reproduction of it. The artist dares to “cross the boundary” by entering the daily life of the viewer; even more so, the artist has changed daily life into a work of art.

Today’s artists continue to be inspired by mass culture as they reflect social reality with the irony and hyperbolization characteristic of pop art. The exhibition With Seven-league Boots. Stop – Finland features more than 20 works by international artists, all created between 1970 and 2015. presents its choice of the top five artworks on view.

Robert Rauschenberg (1925-2008)

Robert Rauschenberg (1925). Headline. Acryluc and enamel on aluminium.,122 x 305 cm, 1989. Photo: Petri Virtanen

Robert Rauschenberg is one of art history’s leading figures. As Europe was familiarizing itself with the new and progressive pop art, in the late 1950s Rauschenberg was creating ‘powerful and loud combinations of this and that’. They are mixtures of painterly elements and photographic materials found in magazines and newspapers. It is agreed that the most iconic of his works are Factum I and Factum II (1957), in which his trans-disciplinary approach first appears. Crossing the boundaries of abstract expressionism, he gave the format of two-dimensional visual art a ready-made effect. Rauschenberg’s name is forever bound to the creation of a new art aesthetic for the 20th century.

Urban Bourbon is Rauschenberg’s series of paintings created from 1988 to 1996. In the series he links expressive painterly rendering with reflections of photographic realism. Large fields of bright colour are supplemented with silk-screened shapes resembling objects from daily physical life. Paraphrased road signs, interior objects, and urban landscapes create a singular collage, an interpretation of the artist’s imagination and being.

Helen Chadwick (1953-1996)

Helen Chadwick (1953). I Thee Wed. Bronze, glass, wood, fur, 85 x 153 x 62 cm, 1992-93. Photo: Pirje Mykkänen

In 1987, British sculptor, photographer and installation artist Helen Chadwick was one of the first women to be nominated for the Turner Prize. Her main artistic objective was to break stereotypical perceptions of the body. Combining non-traditional source materials (such as chocolate and rotting fruit, among others), in her works she played on themes of both a scientific and mythical nature. Constantly present is an emphasis on physical elegance and gender role play.

Chadwick’s arousing and extravagant installation I Thee Wed is a story about the interactions of female and male, and the public reincarnation of a woman’s surreal experience. It is an admixture of completely disparate materials – bronze, wood, glass, and fur – which together show the magnetic power of the physical in a sensitive manner. One senses manipulation with sexual boundaries, refusal, attachment, and unification.

Adel Abidin (1973)

Adel Abidin (1973). Michael. HD video installation, 2015. Photo: Pirje Mykkänen

An Iraqi-born multi-media artist, Adel Abidin believes that his main artistic objective is to study and present the relationships between visual art, politics, and identity. He grasps social situations through an ironic viewpoint that allows one to disengage from blindly following systematically accepted dogmas. Abidin’s international experience allows him to evaluate the goings-on in the world from a remote position, and thereby create a visual language overflowing with sarcasm and paradoxes. Abidin has participated in several international exhibitions and fairs, including the Venice Art Biennale, where in 2007 he represented Finland, in 2011 was part of the Iraqi pavilion, and in 2015 exhibited in the Iranian pavilion.

Michael is a video installation in which the pop-culture icon, singer Michael Jackson, is interviewed after his ‘resurrection’. Michael’s answers are a mash-up of lyrics from his most famous songs. Having ‘risen’ like a prophetic figure, on the pop-culture altar of a TV show Michael Jackson reveals the truth about the world in which we live as he continues to gather millions of listeners around him.  

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997)

Roy Lichtenstein (1923). Modular Painting No. 6. Oil on canvas, 275 x 275 cm, 1970. Photo: Pirje Mykkänen

Roy Lichtenstein is an artist whose works are known even by those who have never shown an interest in pop art. He developed his comic-strip-inspired style of painting and lithography in the 1960s. For Lichtenstein, the abstract and objectifying values of an image were of equal importance in art. Lichtenstein defined the artistic style most often associated with American pop culture as ‘industrial painting’. His working style was a blend of systematic image reproduction and free-hand drawing, leading art critics to pronounce him as one of the most notable pop artists of the 20th century.

In 1966 Lichtenstein began his Modern Paintings series which included modular paintings that paraphrased art history. Modular Painting with Four Panels #6 is a parody of both the architectural geometric forms of Art Deco and commercialism’s huge impact on art.

Riikka Hyvönen (1982)

Riikka Hyvönen (1982). Fresh Meat In Fishnets! Acrylic paint and glitter on leather and MDF, 220 x 210 x 20 cm, 2015. Photo: Petri Virtanen

Riikka Hyvönen is a Finnish artist who has garnered acclaim for portraying the aesthetics of the ugly in her paintings. Her primary interest is human skin – as a space, as a canvas, as a territory. Hyvönen provokes through painting by way of illustrating erotic elements with acrylic paint and glitter on large MDF boards and leather.

Fresh Meat In Fishnets! is from her Roller Derby Kisses series of paintings. She was inspired by a friend’s picture of a bruise. A bruise as an ephemeral moment is an engrossing and even magnificently revealing sign of personality, especially when shown in close-up.