New exhibitions by the National Gallery of Art propose two different takes on man-nature relationship

  • 2024-03-26

At 6 pm Thursday, 28 March, the National Gallery of Art of the LNMA opens two new spring-season events. The Hymn to a Broken Smile, a retrospective of the painter Algimantas Jonas Kuras, a winner of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Art, is accompanied by the Unknown Mushrooms by Andrejus Polukordas, an interdisciplinary artist of the young generation. Both exhibitions have been conceived and curated by the art researcher Jolanta Marcišauskytė-Jurašienė.

A different take on nature by different generations 

„The idea to compare the artistic sensibility of the two artists of different generations has crystalized from some broader reflections on the changing approach to nature both in daily life and the arts. These days we are overwhelmed by abundant ideas on ecology and often tend to look at the surrounding world through fashionable lens of sustainability. This way we level out many different possible approaches and impose on art didactic, moralizing functions. Yet art is not supposed to perform such. The interest by Algimantas Jonas Kuras and by his generation, now senior artists, in the theme of the commonplace has been inspired by their search for individual aesthetics and revolt against the official culture of the time. It is interesting to me, how we perceive his art these days, in the world of eco-catastrophic omens and predictions. It is also interesting what the young artists make of these ideas. I hope that this juxtaposition of two exhibitions gives the public a chance to experience the values adhered to by different generations and provokes the viewer to reflect critically,” the exhibition curator says. 

Kuras: you can paint nothing but things, and they will speak of people 

Random rusted fractions of machinery sticking in the grass, some strange, almost unrecognizable industrial objects disfigured by time, pointing to the gloomier side of the progress of civilization, are recurrent motifs by Algimantas Kuras (b. 1960). He revisits them with consistency for over sixty years. Yet Kuras’s interest in the debris and waste discarded in natural surroundings is anchored primarily not on his concern for ecology, but the artist’s sensitivity to the aesthetic drama arising from the counterpoint. 

“I have searched for something that is truly constant. Sky and the earth struck me as most constant and most powerful. It is not about ecology. I am fascinated with the fate of things; there is so much expressiveness about the process of decay. When I paint, I pursue no goals, be it ecologic, political or moral. I do not want to educate anyone. When I see scrap metal, an oily carburettor, a bent bicycle frame, I am overtaken by a double feeling. I first think who was the bastard to dump it all here. But then my thought is attracted by the drama of the situation, the contrast between the everlasting nature and these things, which are past their life. I get attracted by the uncommonness of these things, the dance of lines, shapes, shadows”, the artist shares his thoughts. 

The artist is attracted by useless things past their life but with a story. “A brand-new item is almost of no interest to me as an artist. But the things that afterwards come to live among people, acquire a meaning and become nearly symbolical. It is possible to paint but things, and their stories will be no inferior to those humans tell,” – the artist says. 

Hymn to a Broken Smile 

It is the first retrospective of Algimantas Jonas Kuras. The exhibition of an unprecedented scope is composed of the painter’s artwork lent by the Lithuanian art museums, private collections, and the artist himself. It features his paintings, graphic art, assemblages. In addition, the exhibition provides an opportunity to look through Kuras’s texts. These introduce into his ideas and their development as well as the key creative principles that laid the foundations for postmodernist thinking in visual arts in Lithuania.  

The artist initially with a rural background has developed a unique aesthetic sensibility, branded by the art critics as “junk poetry”. “The real protagonist of these paintings is time, which dooms the material existence to decay and is constantly reminding of its transience. Only two elements are stable and unchanging – the earth and sky. Between them – just a second of a smile,” Jolanta Marcišauskytė-Jurašienė explains the title of the exhibition. 

Unknow mushrooms and predictable consequences 

The retrospective of Algimantas Jonas Kuras is accompanied by an exhibition Unknown Mushrooms by Andrej Polukord (b. 1990) representing interdisciplinary art. This exhibition poses questions about human responsibility to nature and proposes a different approach to their relationship.  

„Probably many of us have noticed an inner voice whispering to us that the system we live in shapes a human consumer, though human nature is quite different – that of a human creator. The practice and promotion of the consumption system is a waste of resources, resulting in involution, and not evolution, which is putting the resources towards achieving some higher goals (like making discoveries). What else, if not discoveries move humanity forward and open new opportunities? The practice of such a “well-being” creates the feeling of a constant “insufficiency”, “of nothing being enough”. The troubles of the world are the result of this practice,” the artist shares his perceptions of contemporary world. 

Not only a successful mushroom hunter, but also a collector of mushrooms, the artist introduces his exhibition visitors into new, invasive mushroom species, which were grown industrially and sown by people in the forest. The artist invites into a dystopic fairy-tale full of paradoxes and jokes. 

In order to learn about these unknown mushrooms, viewers will have to wear formal-style jackets (available to borrow at the entrance to the exhibition) and seated in … a massage chair.  

“Polukord’s installations, performances, video art projects initially strike as comic and absurd, but they aim at breaking the stagnant mental schemes and at exposing their internal paradoxes. Even his hobbies, like bread baking and mushroom hunting become subject matter of his art projects. He plays the card of flippancy and naiveness with damn precision and accuracy, first confounding his viewers, then making them smile, and finally – think”, the curator Marcišauskytė-Jurašienė says.

Accompanying events programme to help to understand the “junk aesthetics” of A. J. Kuras 

The exhibition Hymn to a Broken Smile will be accompanied by the events designed to elaborate on the theme of ecology: creative workshops, researchers’ presentations, film screenings and tours. 

11 April the gallery will host a mini conference. Participants will reflect on the epochs of the Modernity and the Anthropocene. Vaiva Daraškevičiūtė and Mintautas Gutauskas, academics of Vilnius University, and Jolanta Marcišauskytė-Jurašienė, curator of the exhibition are the presenters.  

18 April the artist Česlovas Lukenskas and Rūta Lukenskienė, biochemic, the founder of the culinary heritage studio, will speak about early-1980s artists’ expeditions into the dump sites and landfills and will show how the philosophy of found objects influenced the genre of assemblage.  

During three Sundays over the period of exhibition, visitors of all ages will be invited to participate in the workshops by the artists Daina Pupkevičiūtė and Ieva Rižė together with the composer and musician Miglė Vilčiauskaitė-Migloko. 

Guided tours by the curator Jolanta Marcišauskytė-Jurašienė will provide a deeper understanding of the artist’s work and the concept of the exhibition. As the list of accompanying activities is not yet exhausting, the museum invites to check out for more events on the internet and social media platforms. 

Exhibition opening press conference at 11 am Thursday 28 March at the National Gallery of Art of the LNMA (Konstitucijos Av. 22, Vilnius). 

6 pm Thursday 28 March exhibition opening at the National Gallery of Art of the LNMA.

Algimantas Jonas Kuras’s exhibition Hymn to a Broken Smile will run until 16 June, Andrej Polukord’s exhibition Unknown Mushrooms, until 9 June. 

Exhibitions organized by the National Gallery of Art of the LNMA 

Exhibition curator Jolanta Marcišauskytė-Jurašienė

Architect Ūla Žebrauskaitė-Malinauskė 

Designer Laura Grigaliūnaitė 

Light artist Milvydas Kezys 

Coordinator Ernestas Parulskis

Coordinating artist Mindaugas Reklaitis

Lenders to the exhibition Hymn to a Broken Smile: MO Museum, M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Lithuanian Film Foundation, Vilnius Minties Gymnasium, Kultūros barai, Alfonsas Andriuškevičius, Dangis Babikas, Irena and Vytautas Butrimai, Aleksandra Jacovskytė, Egidijus Jakubauskas, Zigfridas Jankauskas, Rimas Kuliešius, Algimantas Kunčius, Algimantas Jonas Kuras, Ramunė and Robertas Lauciai, Viktoras Liutkus, Vidmantas Martikonis, Juozas Matonis, Vygaudas Meškauskas, Visvaldas Neniškis, Gintaras Rinkevičius, Evaldas Rimšelis, Mindaugas Ruseckas, Vladimiras Tarasovas, Loreta and Mikas Vaicekauskai

Exhibition Hymn to a Broken Smile financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania 

Supported by: Exterus, Fundermax, Lithuanian Film Centre 

Information partners: JC Decaux,

Exhibition Unknown Mushrooms is organized in partnership with Galerie Uberall

Supported by: Borealis, VšĮ Humana People to People Baltic, Medžio stilius

Information partner: