Exhibition “Portable Landscapes: Memories and Imaginaries of Refugee Modernism”

  • 2019-11-07
  • TBT Staff

The Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art in collaboration with the James Gallery at the Graduate Center, CUNY opens an exhibition “Portable Landscapes: Memories and Imaginaries of Refugee Modernism” on November 19. The exhibition is part of the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art research and exhibition project “Portable Landscapes” examining stories of exiled and emigree Latvian artists and locating them within the broader context of 20th century art history, and wider processes of migration and globalization.

The exhibition at the James Gallery brings into the foreground exiled Latvian artists’ and writers’ collective Hell’s Kitchen that was active in New York from the 1950s through the 1970s. The exhibition and programs developed in collaboration with the James Gallery examine artistic and political expressions of refugee artists that unfold diverse narratives of both past and present processes of crossing borders and traversing territories.

Through the story of the Hell’s Kitchen group the exhibition reveals a parallel chapter in the history of Latvian art and culture – one produced as a result of the 1944 Soviet occupation, which drove many artists into exile. Thus, departing from the Hell's Kitchen collective, the exhibition looks at and highlights personalities and artistic phenomena that have resulted from migration, bringing forward a web of lesser known stories. It concerns the movements, individual artists and groups of artists that played supporting roles in, but also worked to diversify and challenge, the overarching art historical narrative. In addition to pursuing these stories with the help of archival material, historical works of art and artefacts, the exhibition also gathers works by contemporary artists working on the theme of migration and its attendant questions. Emphasizing the importance of diversity, different modernisms and alternative undercurrents to main narratives the exhibition suggests that both present and history are a living process constantly updated and shaped by us.

Artists: Daina Dagnija, Yonia Fain, Yevgeniy Fiks, Hell’s Kitchen collective, Rolands Kaņeps, Boris Lurie, Judy Blum Reddy, Vladimir Svetlov & Aleksandr Zapoļ (Orbita Group), Viktor Timofeev, Sigurds Vīdzirkste, Artūrs Virtmanis. Curators: Katherine Carl, Solvita Krese, Inga Lāce and Andra Silapētere.

Opening Public Programs:

November 19, 2019. 6-8pm

Reception and walk-through with exhibition artists and curators

November 21, 2019. 4pm

 “(H)ell(e)s* Kitchen” performative walk by Vladimir Svetlov & Aleksandr Zapoļ (Orbita group)

*”Elle” means “hell” in Latvian

Public programs in February, 2020:

February 5. 6.30pm

Workshop, reading, and film screening “Yonia Fain: With Pen and Paintbrush” by filmmaker Josh Waletzky, with participation of Yiddish literary scholar Sheva Zuker and Yiddish actor Shane Baker

February 11, 2020. 4pm to 8pm


Talk by exhibition curators Inga Lāce and Solvita Krese

Judy Blum Reddy in conversation with curators Inga Lāce, Solvita Krese, Katherine Carl

Artist talk and a discussion with Karol Radziszewski about his film “America is Not Ready for This” (2012)

Presentation of Boris Lurie book “In Riga” (2019) with participation of poet Igor Stanovsky

Discussion about younger Latvian art scene in New York with exhibition artists Artūrs Virtmanis, Viktor Timofeev and curator and art historian Ksenia Nouril

Exhibition “Portable Landscapes: Memories and Imaginaries of Refugee Modernism” at the James Gallery is the last exhibition in the series of the exhibition and research projects “Portable Landscapes” that took place starting 2017 with exhibitions at: Villa Vassilieff, Paris (2018), Latvian National Museum of Art, Riga (2018), Körsbärsgården Konsthall, Gotland (2018) and District, Berlin (2019). The project’s culmination is planned in spring 2020 when Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art together with Berlin based publisher K.Verlag will launch a book “Portable Landscapes: Art Histories of Latvian Exile”, that views together all the project’s stories.

The Amie and Tony James Gallery’s mission is to bring artists and scholars into public dialogue on topics of mutual concern through exhibitions as a form of advanced research. As a window into the research work of The Graduate Center and a hub of international discussion, The James Gallery is central to The Graduate Center’s and the City University of New York’s contribution to the cultural life of New York City. Located in midtown Manhattan at the nexus of the academy, contemporary art, and the city, the gallery creates and presents artwork to the public in a variety of formats. While some exhibitions remain on view for extended contemplation, other activities such as performances, workshops, reading groups, roundtable discussions, salons, and screenings have a short duration. The gallery works with scholars, students, artists and the public to explore working methods that may lie outside usual disciplinary boundaries. All exhibitions and programming are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA) is the largest institution for contemporary art in Latvia, curating and producing contemporary art events on a national and international scale. Since 1993, it has researched and curated contemporary art processes both in Latvia and abroad, aiming to provoke critical reflection on issues relevant to contemporary society. The LCCA is widely recognized for its annual international contemporary art festival “SURVIVAL KIT” and its regular exhibitions at the Latvian National Museum of Art, as well as for representing Latvia at the Venice Biennale, Manifesta, São Paulo Art Biennial, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Rauma Biennale of Contemporary Art, and others.

„Portable Landscapes” is one of the events of the Latvia’s Centenary Celebrations. It is supported by Latvian Republic Culture Ministry and State Culture Capital Foundation, Polish Cultural Institute New York. Public programs of the exhibitionin November 2019 and February 2020 is possible thanks to the support of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation.