Posts tagged with "Lithuania":

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Retrospective of Valdas Ozarinskas considers an architect without architecture

Envision an entirely different turn in architecture after deconstructivism. What if, instead of neo-modernism and algorithmically generated formalism, architecture had pushed forward with conceptualism and a Brutalist take on the postindustrial world? An Architect Without Architects?, a recent retrospective on the work of Valdas Ozarinskas (1961–2014) at the Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) in Vilnius, Lithuania, gives a glimpse of such a possibility.

Ozarinskas was born in the northeastern Lithuanian town of Ignalina, where in 1974 the Soviets began to construct the largest nuclear reactor in the world, a facility that would later provoke concern within the European Union due to its lack of a containment building, a design it shared with the destroyed reactor at Chernobyl. After military service, Ozarinskas studied architecture and graduated from the State Art Institute (now the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts). His first works were informed by deconstructivism, although he aligned himself less with the colliding planes of Malevich and more with Tatlin’s faktura. The retrospective opens with one of Ozarinskas’s first projects, the 1989 Tarakonas (cockroach), designed with Audrius Bučas, with whom he would frequently collaborate. An abstract composition made of debris found at construction sites, Tarakonas is depicted in photographs floating in the air and of indeterminate scale, perhaps a building, a light, a space probe, or a threatening insectoid robot. Though it is a take on Productivism, Tarakonas was made not at the beginning of the Soviet era, but at the end, when utopian ideal had been displaced by dystopian reality.

During the 1990s, after Lithuania regained independence, Ozarinskas became the deputy director of the CAC under visionary director Kestutis Kuizinas. There, Ozarinskas had the opportunity to explore his architectural imagination more freely. Built in the late 1960s by Vytautas Čekanauskas, the exhibit hall was inspired not by Soviet architectural dogma but by Aalto and European modernism. If the CAC was a significant building, by the time Ozarinskas became deputy director it was in desperate need of an update. Working with a minimal budget, Ozarinskas traced surgical interventions into the space by installing industrial steel doors in the galleries and repurposing found objects such as a glider wing which, suspended by cables, still serves as the reception disk. The result, akin to the earliest moments of Brutalism at Hunstanton, dragged rough poetry out of the simultaneous deprivation and optimism of the first years of reconstruction.

Ozarinskas is best known for collaborating with his wife, Aida Čeponytė, his longtime collaborator Bučas, and architect Gintaras Kuginis as the Private Ideology group on the Lithuanian pavilion at the Hannover World Expo in 2000. Here, Lithuania made its first appearance in a World Expo since attaining independence, and Private Ideology set out to insert Lithuania into the globalizing world with a structure based on the theme of flight. The result deliberately recalls the shape of a jet engine, while also evoking a science fiction flying craft. An international success, the pavilion brought disdain at home from the conservative Lithuanian Architects’ Union, which wanted instead to promote the sort of weak “folk” pastiche commonly found at Vilnius’s most touristic restaurants.

Having little opportunity to practice as an architect after 2000, Ozarinskas immersed himself in the art world. Like the central figure in Tarkovsky’s film Stalker, Ozarinskas compulsively sought out objects in the “Zone” of post-Soviet Lithuania. A display case full of Ozarinskas’s jewelry reveals not precious metals and gems, but repurposed industrial parts and even some items that look like they might be from disassembled weapons. In the CAC cinema, which Ozarinskas and Bučias also designed, the exhibit featured black pillows of heavy rubber, lined with grommets and outfitted with an integral handle. Originally created for a 2001 concert by minimalist electronic group Monolake, these would reappear in his exhibits from time to time as seating; we’d sit on them as night bled into morning while Ozarinskas described how they could be an end to architecture, a reduction of all human needs to a piece of furniture for nomads.

In the 2002 Lux Europae light festival in Copenhagen, Ozarinskas and Čeponytė installed another controversial project, this time a reflection on the role of the Ignalina nuclear power plant in Lithuania’s economy. The Ignalina plant, at this point, generated 90 percent of Lithuania’s electric power, which was its dominant export, but was slated to be decommissioned as a condition of the country’s ascension to the European Union. For the 2002 exhibit, Ozarinskas and Čeponytė suspended a series of cathode ray tubes from the ceiling of a Copenhagen train station, their cabling and suspension hidden in high tech orange fabric bringing to mind anti-radiation suits worn by nuclear power plant workers. On the monitors flickered footage Ozarinskas had found from the reactor on Lithuanian television and that he depicted as a live feed from Ignalina. The result again brought round condemnation from conservatives in Lithuania who claimed the exhibit harmed the national image and demanded it be shut down.

The final two projects in the retrospective—and of Ozarinskas’s life—index the anxiety provoked by the global financial crisis, which hit Lithuania hard. For a 2010 CAC exhibit entitled Formalism, Ozarinskas and Bučas filled the main gallery of the CAC with a gargantuan, 25-meter-wide version of the Monolake pillow. The optimism of 2001 had ended, however, and Ozarinskas described it as a “story of our failures,” a black mass that smothered everything. Ironically, the Black Pillow achieved international success, being exhibited at the Liverpool Biennial in 2012. Having left the CAC, Ozarinskas found himself at the Antanas Mončys House museum in the seaside town of Palanga. His last show, Filters, was composed of a set of 300 x 137 cm photographs taken through welding filters. Rather than being continuous black fields, each photograph had a distinct texture, promising—but nevertheless denying—a hint of something visible beyond and reminding viewers of the darkness inherent in Malevich’s reduction to what he called “the zero of form.” Ozarinskas died five days after the exhibit opened, at the age of 53, leaving behind a rich legacy of work still virtually unknown in the West.

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Lithuanian-born environmental artist and designer Aleksandra Kasuba passes

Aleksandra Kasuba, a Lithuanian-born environmental artist and designer responsible for numerous public art commissions in the 1970s and 1980s as well as pioneering environments made of tensile fabrics, died on March 5 in New Mexico. Kasuba originally intended to be an architect, but with the University of Kaunas closed by the occupying Nazi regime, she enrolled in art school until that too was shuttered. Fleeing with her art teacher and future husband, sculptor Vytautas Kašuba, she wound up in a Displaced Persons’ Camp in Germany until they were allowed to emigrate to the United States in 1947. Possessed with a restless curiosity, Kasuba sought out every opportunity to learn more about visual art, attending the famous Four O’clock Forums held by Louise Nevelson while developing a practice in mosaic and tile to supplement her husband’s income. At a show of hers in the Waddell Gallery in 1965, Edward Larrabee Barnes approached her and asked if she would work in brick. Seizing the opportunity, she deduced how to represent the invisible forces of structure in brick wall relief and launched a successful line of large-scale works, such as the wall at Barnes’s 1971 Dining Hall at Rochester Institute of Technology, a brick relief at 560 Lexington Avenue for the Eggers Group, and a wall at 7 World Trade Center which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. At the same time, Kasuba continued her experimentation with materials, shaping light and shadow with lucite for the seminal Experiments in Art and Technology exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1968 and the Art and Technology program at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. A breakthrough came when she found she could make tensile structures out of synthetic fabrics. Just as she sought to represent the structural forces in her brick walls, she made visible the forces flowing through the fabric. Among her noted achievements with fabric were her 1971 Live-In Environment, in which she erased any traces of 90-degree angles in a floor of her West 90th Street townhouse, creating a space for contemplation and creativity. In 1973, she was commissioned by the Carborundum Museum of Ceramics in Niagara Falls to build an environment for the display of ceramics. In 1975, she realized The Spectral Passage at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, composed of seven structures, relating form to color. Inspired by this show, she devised Spectrum, An Afterthought, which would be revisited at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius in 2014 (a retrospective of her will open there in 2020). Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Kasuba continued research with curvilinear walls, experimenting with how tensile membranes might be made rigid and self-supporting. After the death of her husband, she moved to New Mexico where she built a traditionally framed house in the desert together with two prototype shell structures. In these, she stretched wire between wooden frames as a base that she covered with building materials and aluminum surfacing. Kasuba was also a prolific author, producing a series of books on her life, utopian communities, and reflections on creativity. She is survived by her daughter, two grandsons, sixteen great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandson. Her archive is at the Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C.
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Here’s Daniel Libeskind design for the Lithuanian Modern Art Center

Daniel Libeskind has released the design for a 33,400 square-foot, contemporary art center in the heart of Vilnius, Lithuania, a city famous for its baroque architecture and medieval old town. The center, which represents Vilnius past and present, was designed by Studio Libeskind in partnership with Do Architects and Baltic Engineers. It is the first center ever to be dedicated solely to modern and contemporary art by Lithuanian artists. “We wanted to create a museum for the people of Lithuania, and also give this collection a home and an international audience," Viktoras Butkus, co-founder of the nonprofit Modern Art Center (MAC), said in a statement. "This collection is about the cultural legacy of the country. Libeskind’s work is expressive, innovative, and, most importantly, has the power to tell the story of the past while connecting to the future of the city.” The museum will house works solely by Lithuanian artists, ranging from the 1960s through the present day. Works include: Vincas Kisarauskas "Falling Broken Man" 1965; Arvydas Saltenis "Woman" 1972; and Kostas Dereskevicius "Mailboxes" 1987; photographs by Antanas Sutkus "J. P. Sartre ir S. de Beauvoir in Lithuania"; video by Deimantas Narkevicius "The Dud Effect." Being a Modern Art Center in a historic city, the design takes into account the local architecture both formally and materially, according to Libeskind. For instance, the structure is comprised of two intertwining forms that create indoor and outdoor spaces, while the exterior is clad in white concrete—already a prevalent material throughout the city. An interior courtyard cuts through the entire building, featuring a staircase that runs to a public planted roof and sculpture garden which connect to the street-level piazza. “The Modern Art Center not only creates a home for this extraordinary collection, but the design connects the galleries to the street and the urban fabric—giving the citizens of Vilnius a new cultural center infused with public space,” Libeskind said in a statement. The design calls for floor-to-ceiling glazing that will flood the interior galleries with light, and a 16-foot cantilever will provide shading, regulating the southern facing exposure. The north side has a three-story, 33-foot-tall glazed entrance, which opens into a sun-filled lobby. An open floor plan connects all the galleries, in which 10,800 square-feet are dedicated to both permanent and temporary exhibitions. The design also includes a café, bookstore, educational areas, auditorium, and a storage and administrative space. The Lithuanian Modern Art Center will begin construction in 2017 and should be complete by early 2019.