FORM REALIZM TO THE OBJECT
LITHUANIAN WORLD ART IN THE COLLECTION OF THE LITHUANIAN EXPATRIATE ART FOUNDATION
Organisers: Lithuanian Expatriate Art Foundation, Lewben Art Foundation
Partner: M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art
Curator: Dr Rasa Žukienė
Coordinators: Ugnė Bužinskaitė, Giedrė Marčiulaitė
Photographer: Rytis Šeškaitis
Sponsors: Lewben Group, Enercom Capital, Strategy Labs, Nordgain, Živilė and Jonas Garbaravičiai, Lietuvos kultūros taryba
Media Sponsors: artnews.lt, Echo Gone Wrong
The exhibition presents a wide range of Lithuanian artists, with work ranging from Realism to Abstraction and contemporary art objects. It is a broad and contrasting review of Lithuanian art in the 20th and 21st centuries, reflecting the achievements of the artists. The Lithuanian Expatriate Art Foundation has selected works of high artistic value from its large and rich collection that have been exhibited in galleries and museums worldwide. The exhibition presents the works not only in their capacity as artistic treasures, but also as witnesses of their times, revealing the search for an identity, and particular moments in the complex life of the nation. It starts with photographs of the daily lives of war refugees, and the realistic and beautiful scenery of Lithuania. The first hall shows how the loss of the homeland traumatised painters and stirred their imaginations: they created naturalistic landscapes, even when far away from Lithuania. These were attempts to revive the memory and to maintain the myth of their birthplace.
The second hall displays a wide spectrum of creative work by emigres, from modulations of Expressionism to contacts with trends in Abstractionism. Artists who stayed in Western Europe or who ended up in countries that were more remote from an artistic point of view, such as South America or Australia, adapted and extended the tradition of figurative art in a creative way: among them were Vytautas Kasiulis, Pranas Gailius and Jonas Rimša. Surrounded by American Modernism, the Lithuanian national school only remained important for the generation of Adomas Galdikas, Viktoras Vizgirda and Adolfas Valeska. Younger artists became pilgrims in various avant-garde trends, and adherents of Abstract Expressionism, Op Art and Minimalism: Kęstutis Zapkus, Elena Urbaitytė, Kazimieras Žoromskis and Pranas Lapė. It is important to emphasise that their work accurately represents Western Modernism, and, at the same time, it is also a part of Lithuanian art history.
The artists presented in the third hall studied art, and have spent a large part of their lives in Lithuania. But after 1990, the Western art world opened up and drew them in. The contrasting forms of the works exhibited, paintings, objects and installations, are brought together solely by their abstract themes, indicating their authors’ wide horizons: "After the War", "Accidious", "Plasmatic Detritus". This is the last part of the exhibition, but it does not claim to represent the phenomenon completely. It only reveals the continuous process as being dependent on artists’ different visions of the future, and even on their differently formulated narratives of the recent past. What do they mean to Lithuania? These are "migratory birds", which still have an emotional bond with their parents’ native land. Today, they are building their careers on the international art scene, where there is neither race nor ethnicity, but only issues that are relevant to the quality and the sense of the artwork. They are our own foreigners, shaping a new and exciting page in Lithuanian art history.
The exhibition is expected to stimulate discussions on the boundaries of Lithuania’s art history, including the image of Lithuanians who are living outside their homeland. The goal of the exhibition is to make some slight adjustments to the standard narrative, which is usually limited to presenting local artists, and just manages to find some space for emigres as "insignificant dust of the past", in the words of the historian and professor Egidijus Aleksandravičius.
Cataclysms of history have led to the situation whereby Lithuanians have become a diaspora nation. There are Lithuanian artists living on all five continents, and their art is scattered throughout the world. This is a historical fact, and it has both good and bad sides. They show their work in museums and galleries all over the world, and their works are included in the collections of major museums. However, it often happens that works of art go astray. Therefore, forming a collection of Lithuanian art in Lithuania is a noble and meaningful activity. It has been carried out by the Lithuanian Expatriate Art Foundation since 2010. This exhibition is being held to mark the Foundation’s fifth birthday.