Human Chain - art of the national awakening

21.11.2019. - 04.04.2020.
Main Gallery, Upper Gallery
Human Chain - art of the national awakening
Human Chain - art of the national awakening
Human Chain - art of the national awakening
Human Chain - art of the national awakening
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Exhibition from the Zuzāns Collection

HUMAN CHAIN

This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Baltic Way. This historical event reminds us that, as a result of several interrelated processes in which a decisive role was played by the weakness of the political establishment and the spiritual renaissance of the nation, the active part of the Baltic society of the time was able to change the existing system and turn the black ribbon day – August 23, the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact – into a true celebration. This is one of the most beautiful examples of a human mass coming together in an organised fashion and expressing its will with the help of a human chain.

Taking inspiration from the events of the national awakening, works from the Zuzāns Collection from the turn of the 1980s and 1990s are displayed in the Main and Upper galleries of the Mūkusala Art Salon. This turbulent and exciting time coincided with the heyday of neo-expressionism – a movement characterised by a shocking expressivity and unfinished form, large formats, mythological and allegorical subjects. According to Santa Hirša, art historian and author of the publication “Neoexpresionism on Either Side of the Border: the Latvian Version”: “The heightened emotionality is often enchanted by sharply ironic accents coloured by black humour and the absurd, with existential generalisations predominating rather than any concrete, easily perceived statements.” Their ambiguous content and indeterminacy provided a fitting backdrop in the atmosphere of political transformations, giving form to the longing for the restoration of independence prevailing in the society yet still looking for its expression.

The exposition is based on the brightest expressions of this movement in the works of the 'supergraphics artists'[1] and the painters of the 'Gentle Fluctuations'[2]. Among the authors represented in the exhibition are Andris Breže, Sandra Krastiņa, Jānis Mitrēvics, Ģirts Muižnieks, Ojārs Pētersons, Edgars Vērpe, Aija Zariņa. They deny consciously following the movement of neo-expressionism, likewise, they have not been actively involved in political processes, instead doing what they knew best – creating art in which the spirit of change is ever-present. Their solidarity with the society can be seen in their desire to work as a collective, with the names of the groups dominating over the names of the individual authors. For a distanced viewer, the similar formats and expressive gestures of the 'Supergraphics artists' might seem like the works of the same author, while the 'Gentle Fluctuations' action on the eve of the barricades – a month-long process of live painting in front of the public, can be read as a desire for unmediated interaction with the public around them. This process can be called an intuitive pulsation, where the artists join into a human chain with the society. We can use the energy encapsulated in the period of the national awakening to regain a sense of control and power over the important processes that are currently developing and in which our participation is decisive.

I would like to thank Sandra Krastiņa, Laima Kaugure and Anta Bergmane for their assistance in gathering the materials necessary for the exhibition.

Curator Sniedze Kāle

You are welcome to use the family activity sheets. Author of the educational programme – Marta Leimane. 

[1]The supergraphics artists' earned their name owing to the impressive formats of their works. Large-format screenprints with heightened, expressive form and socio-political content created in the late 1980s by a number of authors – Ojārs Pētersons, Juris Putrāms, Andris Breže, Kristaps Ģelzis, Indulis Gailāns, Normunds Lālis and Vilnis Putrāms. The impulse for the creation of the large-format prints came from a commission for the authors to regularly update the exposition of the USSR Ministry of Ferrous Metallurgy at the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy in Moscow, for five years providing the artists with large premises at the Riga Porcelain Factory, free access to materials and large sheets of paper.

[2] The exhibition – action Gentle Fluctuations [Maigās svārstības] by a group of artists – Ieva Iltnere, Jānis Mitrēvics, Ģirts Muižnieks, Sandra Krastiņa, Edgars Vērpe, Aija Zariņa – took place from 06.11. – 04.12.1990 at the exhibition hall Latvia.






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