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Klucis: art lab-tested by totalitarianism and time

A broad retrospective of around 300 works by world-reknowned constructivist artist Gustavs Klucis opened Saturday at the “Arsenāls” exhibition hall of the Latvian National Museum of Art. Part of the “Riga 2014” European Capital of Culture Programme, the exhibition is open until the 26 October, lsm.lv reports.

The exhibit is divided into eight sections so viewers can follow the artist’s evolution in his thinking and seeking of new forms of expression and new technologies in various art forms.

The works of Gustavs Klucis (1895-1938) are well-known in European museums, but the world-famous constructivist’s links with Latvia often go unmentioned. However it is up to Riga, as the European Cultural Capital in 2014, to tell the full story about Latvians who have contributed key aspects to European culture.        

The exhibition “Gustavs Klucis. Anatomy of an Experiment” is currently the most comprehensive artist’s retrospective in his native land. On view along with the Latvian National Museum of Art collection are artworks and documental photographs from number of museums’ and private collections: George Costakis (1913-1990) collection at the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, State Tretyakov Gallery and State V. Mayakovsky Museum in Moscow, Latvian War Museum, Gustavs Klucis’ family archive, Cajasol Obra Social and VIMCORSA Viviendas Municipales collections in Spain, private collections in Latvia – art collection of Dr. Guntis Belēvičs and Mūkusala Art Salon collection. Videos presented at the exhibition include materials from the Russian State Documentary Film and Photo Archive, and Latvian State Archive of Audiovisual Documents.

The exhibition’s message to the audience is to avoid any temptation to denounce or deny the artist’s work. By telling the story of a single individual, the exhibition will encourage visitors to think about problems and phenomena that that have always been of great importance – the limits and responsibilities of an individual’s freedom of choice, the relationship between an artist and a regime, and how the artist and his artworks influence public opinion.

Gustavs Klucis himself referred to his work as “laboratory” research, during which he attempted to solve specific tasks. Formal problems (texture, space, colour, dynamics, etc.), which engaged the artist’s attention in the early 1920s, evolved into the task of channelling to the viewer in convincing manner the message conveyed by the artwork. Gustavs Klucis saw modern technology (photography, cinema, radio) as having the potential for synthesizing new art forms and tearing down the barriers between visual art, design, and architecture.
25-08-2014
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