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Exposition of Žilvinas Landzbergas in Vartai, Vilnius

Something’s Hidden in the Woods There 0

Maija Rudovska

I arrived in Vilnius two weeks ago to see the internationally renowned Lithuanian curator Raimundas Malašauskas’s exhibit at the Contemporary Art Center and perhaps hear one of his equally famous stories. Yet in the end, without tasting the special cocktail at the opening, I instead wandered into the no-less-renowned artist Žilvinas Landzbergas’s (1979) solo show at the Vartai Gallery. At the show, I was shocked by not only his work Sunset, but also the artist’s own personality and my conversation with him, which brought feelings similar to those experienced upon opening a fairy tale book. And so there I remained. 

Žilvinas Landzbergas in kim?. Photo: Ansis Starks

As a student at the Art Academy of Latvia, I took a course on Baltic art. I recall the division between the artistic medium most characteristic of each of these nations, in which each country feels the strongest. For example, Latvians have painting, Estonians have the graphic arts, and Lithuanians have sculpture. Though this is one of the classic constructs of Soviet art history, having grown out of the ideological foundation of art exhibits and institutions, it has been particularly sustainable until now. I too have always thought that, thanks to Lithuania’s marked Baroque heritage and Catholic influences, their visual art traditions possess a particularly spatial sense directed toward expressivity and character, a robustness and roughness of form mixed with the presence of powerful emotions. Landzbergas’s works also speak of the birth of myth and imagination’s creation of reality, in both of his almost simultaneous exhibits: For Ever Again at the Kim? Contemporary Art Center’s VKN Gallery in Riga (on display through December 11) and at the Vartai Gallery in Vilnius (through January 7).

In honor of its twentieth anniversary, the Vartai Gallery’s unique space, still filled with nineteenth-century architectural artifacts, is hosting works by Žilvinas—Sunset and The Future is Now—and objects by Spanish artist Jaime Pitarch. During our conversation, Žilvinas called the exhibit For Ever Again, on display at the Kim? VKN Gallery, a sort of continuation of the works displayed at Vartai, though the Riga exhibit opened first.[1] Here I must add that For Ever Again continued a thematic series of exhibits/objects begun this year in Vienna as part of the exhibit The Future is Now. Continuity is an important aspect of the artist’s work, because the objects or groups of objects displayed at one exhibit can “participate” in another, yet in completely different combinations or relationships, depending on the space and compositional plans. As mentioned in the introductory text to For Ever Again, a space actively changes and the characteristics of a place determine the choice of displayed objects and the way they are exhibited.[2]Both exhibits differ from one another in the way that the space is inhabited and how a dialogue is formed with it. When viewed together, they definitely express more about the artist and the principles of his work than each individually. For example, the exhibit at Vartai, which inhabits two large spaces, creating within them installations and objects of various scales and forms, is in a structural sense much more organically and freely created than the exhibit at the VKN Gallery.

Exposition sight in Vartai, Vilnius

This can also be explained by the character of the space, its requirements, and the corresponding adaptation or rejection of the work of art from it. Vartai is not a white cube; the decorative plaster ornaments have been preserved in the high ceiling, as have the spatial plan and old windows. This endows the space with a historically saturated atmosphere, and gives Žilvinas’s semantically layered works a place for discussion and expansion. Yet the show at the VKN Gallery left a slightly synthetic character, becoming completed and overly sterile, conforming to its discursive, neo-conceptualist format. At the same time, in terms of its imagery and the effects of its wide ranging scope, the exhibit became an antithesis to VKN’s cultivated and sometimes overly self-serving style of activity. >>

[1] Here and elsewhere, in reference to private conversations with Žilvinas Landzbergas.
[2] Ķencis, Toms. Introductory text to Žilvinas Landzbergas’s exhibit For Ever Again, November 3, 2011.