Vytautas Kasiulis Museum of Art of the LNMA invites to see the works by the Baltic women artists who transcended Soviet ideology

  • 2024-04-03

At 6 pm Friday, 5 April, Vytautas Kasiulis Museum of Art of the LNMA invites to the opening of the exhibition Unframed: Leis, Tabaka, Rožanskaitė. The exhibition presents the artwork by three women artists of the Baltic countries as an artistic polylog, and reveals the historic role they played. The exhibition will be on until 8 September. 

"The opening international exhibition of three artists from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia breaks the curtain from the work of artists who defied aesthetic, thematic and norms, exposes the flaws of the Soviet system and actualizes the works that did not receive attention in their time. The works of Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė, which are returning to this day and age, are particularly pleasing - we present her and the artist duo Pakui Hardware's exhibition "Inflammation" at the soon-to-be-started Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art. Therefore, Lithuanian and international audiences will be able to discover the artist's work this year", says the general director of the Lithuanian National Museum of Art and commissioner of the National Pavilion, Arūnas Gelūnas.

“We hope that visitors will be interested in exploring the artistic legacy by the women artists from the second half of the 20th century, which is a testimony of their opposition to the official canon – by Leis in Estonia, Tabaka in Latvia, and Rožanskaitė in Lithuania. The viewers of the senior generation know their art better from the past Soviet-period painting triennials and from other collaborative exhibitions, which brought their artwork together. Solo exhibitions by women artists at the time were rare. Today these outstanding women enjoy a growing interest, which they did not get in their own time,” Ilona Mažeikienė, director of Vytautas Kasiulis Museum of Art speaks about the artists on display. 

Creative explorations by women artists in the focus of the international event

The exhibition arriving from Kumu in Tallin to Vytautas Kasiulis Museum of Art is dedicated to three Baltic women artists, Malle Leis (1940–2017), Maija Tabaka (1939) and Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė (1933–2007) and shows their artwork produced in the late Soviet era in the 1970s and 1980s.

Leis, Tabaka and Rožanskaitė were three prominent artists active in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania under Soviet occupation. Their artistic training received at the art institutes in Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius in the 1950s – 1960s was similar in terms of ideological and aesthetic principles these schools adhered to. The artists however, soon discarded the enforced norms: though not necessarily directly opposing the official artistic canon, but questioning and challenging the dominant perception of what art should represent.  

The works by the women artists who went beyond the boundaries of the period 

According to the organizers of the exhibition, the title Unframed refers not only to the limits, broken by the artists, but also to new interpretation angles of their art. All three produced a significant number of images in which the female protagonist steps out of the picture or turns her back on the viewer, creating visual metaphors of leaving or moving on to a new territory. In other works, the artists played with multiple frames that shift the perception of a stable and uniform reality.

Though the works by the women artists enter into a productive polylogue, they are far from being similar. The exhibition has a fluid structure: in some parts of it all three artists are represented in proportion, other parts are defined by the artwork of one of them, with an addition of a comment or an intervention by the works from another; some counterpoints are based on meaningful similarities, other, by intriguing differences.  

The exhibition was created as part of the Kumu Art Museum’s research and exhibition programme on Baltic regional art history, which aims to break out of national frameworks and to find interconnections between the art histories of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It also continues the Kumu’s initiative of highlighting women artists from all historical periods.

Curators: Anu Allas, Laima Kreivytė

Exhibition design: Anna Škodenko, Povilas Vincentas Jankūnas

Graphic design: Tuuli Aule, Povilas Vincentas Jankūnas

Coordinators: Anastassia Langinen, Birutė Pankūnaitė

Works from the collections of:

Art Museum of Estonia, Tartu Art Museum, Estonian History Museum, Tartu University Art Museum, Narva Museum, Viinistu Art Museum, Latvian National Museum of Art, Latvian Artists’ Union, Zuzeum, Latvian Art Academy, Lithuanian National Museum of Art, MO Museum, Lewben Art Foundation, Tartle Art Centre, private collections