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Visual Art in Latvia -
By Anita Kaze. 05.11.2008
ART DURING THE RENEWED REPUBLIC OF LATVIA (1990 onwards)
On May 4, 1990 the Latvian Declaration of Independence was passed. Many opportunities for the development of art appeared, although the cultural situation was very complicated, yet the number of exhibitions increased.
Ideological pressure disappeared, but state support for artists was also discontinued. The Ministry of Culture inconsistently supported individual activities. New avant-garde art was supported by the Soros Center for Contemporary Arts, founded in 1993, and since 2000 also by the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art. The annual exhibitions organized by the Center have become a significant indicator of new directions in art. Art galleries also play an important developmental role.
An important event in 1990 was the exhibition “Maigās svārstības” (Gentle Fluctuations) by a group of artists (Ieva Iltnere, Jānis Mitrēvics, Sandra Krastiņa, Edgars Vērpe, Ģirts Muižnieks, etc.), where paintings were created in front of the public. In adjunct to traditional art forms, non-traditional art forms began to actively develop, as did new media, public and virtual space. The role of exhibition curators became more important.
A notable turning point was “Kvalitāte 92” (Quality 92), the exhibition created by Helēna Demakova in 1992, plus the first of a series of annual exhibitions, “Zoom faktors” (Zoom factor) in 1994, curated by Juris Boiko.
The international contemporary art exhibition “Mūsdienu utopija” (Contemporary Utopia) (2001, curated by Berliner Vagner) was the most ambitious project of the Latvian Center for Contemporary Art.
Many artists who mainly work in traditional styles (Barbara Gaile, Aija Zariņa, Māris Subačs) have also painted, drawn and written on real space, reaching beyond the restrictive boundaries of two-dimensional paper or canvas. Land Art projects like “Dievmātes galva” (Madonna’s head) (1996) by Aija Zariņa exemplify this.
In the early 1990s, a number of artists created installations of monumental proportions. Aircraft and the use of their parts became a part of Oļegs Tilbergs’ creative signature.
A typical theme of the most contemporary art is related to spatial conception and a study of orientation, with austere forms of expression, as in Anita Zabiļevska’s installations and multimedia projects. The combination of pop art traditions with conceptual art appeared in new artists' work. One example was the juxtapositions of ready-made objects and text in the installations by Gints Gabrāns.
During this time new, conceptual multimedia artists debuted, including Ēriks Božis, Miķelis Fišers, Anita Zabiļevska, and Monika Pormale.
A complete mixing of styles can be observed in painting - from works executed with techniques of abstraction to photorealism. The trends from 20th century Europe and America are most prominently seen in new artists' works of the 1990s (Ritums Ivanovs, Ilona Brūvere, Barbara Gaile, Andrejs Ameļkovičs). The most contemporary trends in sculpture are reflected in works by Kristaps Gulbis, Aigars Bikše and Igors Dobičins.
In the late 1990s new media art was actively encouraged in Latvia by E-lab, an organization directed by Rasa and Raitis Šmits, which in 2000 became the RIXC new media center. The work of curators Ieva Auziņa and Māra Traumane also furthered this development.
The new generation of self-taught artists and graduates from the Latvian Academy of Art has already begun active participation in the exhibitions that have been held in the last few years.
New generation painters of note include Jānis Avotiņš, Andris Vītoliņš and Kaspars Brambergs. Ingūna and Holers Elers, Zane Bērziņa and others are actively working in the field of design and installation.
In the late 1990s Latvia resumed participating in internationally significant art events. A most important project occurred in November 2005 during the Latvian festival “Etonnante Lettonie” (“Surprising Latvia”) in France. The central axis was nine “Speaking Stones” by Ēriks Stendzenieks.
In the last few years, the Latvian Artists’ Union Gallery began active work, thanks to the curator Inese Baranovska.
Events of importance are also held at Pedvāle Open-air Arts Museum, directed by sculptor Ojārs Feldbergs. The Museum’s permanent collection holds over 150 works.
The most topical question in the life of Latvian art is about the building of a Contemporary Art Museum. It is planned to build the Museum on Andrejsala, with spaces for exhibitions, conferences, film theaters, an information center, library, teaching art and project workshops.
In Liepāja non-traditional and interdisciplinary art projects are initiated and supported by the non-commercial arts center “K@2 Culture and Information Center” in the former military port. The center is directed by Carl Biorsmark and Kristīne Briede, and offers an interesting alternative to the art life of Riga.
Significant art shows have been organized by curator and art historian Ieva Kalniņa, who attempts to also include works by the newest artists.
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