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Aleksandra Kašuba

Aleksandra Kašuba
Spectrum, An Afterthought. A 1975 project at the National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art presents, for the first time in Lithuania, a sculptural tensile fabric and neon light installation entitled Spectrum, An Afterthought by the renowned Lithuanian-American environmental artist Aleksandra Kašuba (b. 1923), based on a model of her 1975 project Afterthought, which is exhibited alongside the newly constructed installation.

The museum's space briefly became an experimental ground in which the artist herself, the architect Aleksandras Kavaliauskas, and constructors from wood, metal, neon, and textile manufacturing companies, collaborated on constructing a luminescent dwelling of organic shapes - a live-in space.

The artist became interested in tension dynamics in 1969, at a time when, according to the researcher of her work Nicholas Goldsmith, 'with the advent of the be-ins and happenings [...], there was a departure from hard-edged architecture of the 1950s to more organic and softer forms inspired by nature, LSD and alternative spatial solutions.' The first step was triggered by the artist's intuitive realization that in nature, curves emerged when the internal properties of materials collided with certain forces acting upon them. Everything started with the first attempt, when the artist 'cut up her husband's undershirt and sweater and stretched them between round- and square-shaped plywood sheets with a pole between them, observing that stretching produced tensions that turned the fabric into a tensile membrane and produced undulating configurations of the latter based on the frame's position.'

After she built several textile live-in environments which partitioned the space into different functional zones (the colour smell repository created by the perfumer Danute Anonis, which stood here at the time, is also featured in the exhibition) in her studio in 1971, the artist began her creative experiments, which she continues to this day. The latter have at their core an aspiration to purposefully change and innovatively harmonise our surrounding environment - from unrealized projects like an installation on the roof deck of the Manhattan Community Rehabilitation Centre (1974) or an office renovation study (1975) to completed works: Blue Shade, a shade structure at the Jacob Riis National Park in Brooklyn (New York, 1978), and transformation of the USA showroom at the international furniture exhibition in Paris (1981). Also worth mentioning is the Rock Hill residential house near Albuquerque, Mexico, designed by the artist and built in 2002.

Aleksandra Kašuba began her studies of art in Lithuania. In 1942-1943 she studied at the Kaunas Institute of Applied and Decorative Art, and in 1943 at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. In 1944, as the front line was approaching, she fled to the West together with her husband Vytautas Kašuba. In 1947 she imigrated to the USA, where she lived and worked in New York from 1963, before moving to New Mexico in 2001.

Throughout her active creative period, the artist tried her hand at diverse means of expression: figurative ceramics, mosaic, and abstract wall reliefs in brick, marble and granite for public spaces in American cities. By far the most widely known example of such reliefs was a granite wall decoration at the World Trade Centre in New York (1986), destroyed together with the building during the 9/11 terrorist attack in 2001. Yet the most original part of Aleksandra Kašuba's work comprises experimental tensile fabric structures, one of which is presented in this exhibition. The artist's works from 1942-2000 are stored in the Smithsonian Institution's Archives of American Art.

For more information on the artist's work, please take a look at the publications presented near the National Gallery of Art's Information Centre or visit the website of the artist.

Curator Elona Lubytė

Project designer and coordinator Aleksandras Kavaliauskas
Constructors: Lauryna Stravinskaitė, Rita Guzej (fabric), Julius Vaišnoras, Povilas Norkus (metal structures), Šarūnas Savickas (wood structures)
Partners: Lietuvos Respublikos ambasada Vašingtone, Tarptautinių kultūros programų centras
Sponsors: Culture Ministry of the Republic of Lithuania, Lithuanian Culture Council, Embassy of United States in Lithuania, UAB "Prime auto", UAB "Exterus"
Media support: "Lietuvos rytas", "lrytas.lt"