2024 03 28 - 06 16

Algimantas Jonas Kuras

Algimantas Jonas Kuras
Hymn to a Broken Smile 

The rusted scraps of mechanisms peaking in the grass, strange, almost unrecognisable industrial objects eroded by the flow of time and jarringly reminding of the ugly side of civilization's progress. These are the painting motifs that artist Algimantas Jonas Kuras (b. 1940) has been consistently studying throughout his creative career, which spans over 60 years.

This exhibition is akin to a poetic retrospective, presenting the works of the famous painter, the winner of the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts, and highlighting its relevance in the context of today's flourishing ecological, quasi-religious ideologies. The issues of human impact on nature, pollution, exploitation of natural resources, recycling, animal body preparation, and human-object-mechanism are often explored in the contemporary fields of arts, nature and social ideas. The eco-catastrophic mood permeates our daily lives and our future. Looking at Kuras' painting, one could falsely assume seeing only ecological themes in it. However, the author's goals were to oppose the prevailing ideological background and the propaganda of the optimistic Soviet reality.

The oeuvre of Kuras and his contemporaries (Arvydas Šaltenis, Kostas Dereškevičius, Algimantas Švėgžda) in the 1970s marked an ideological breaking point when the young generation began to oppose the Soviet official culture by choosing creative subjects filled with stinging irony, absurdity, kitsch and banalities. In a personal diary, A. J. Kuras wrote about his and his friends' goals the following:

'Aestheticizing should be avoided. I suggest looking more critically at all embraced phenomena, opposing the urbanistic understanding of taste, mocking (with works) stagnation, negligence in art, or vice versa, showing one's truth as an example; hence we decided, active critical realism.'

​Thus monumental mechanisms, idealised, aestheticized industrial landscapes began to be replaced by depictions of everyday situations and the environment: meat grinders, people in public transport or toilets, crops being fertilised with chemicals from a helicopter... The author was attracted to everything that was considered borderline in the Soviet culture postulating progress - abandoned locations, storage rooms, and garbage dumped in the forest, which he used as painting motifs, and also brought back to the workshop as interesting sculptural ready-mades, from which he constructed assemblages or installations in his environment.

Having been raised in a rural environment, A. J. Kuras nurtured a unique aesthetic approach, which critics called the 'garbage poetry.' However, the real protagonist of the paintings is time, which condemns material existence to decay and constantly reminds us of its transience. There are only two consistent, unchanging elements - the earth and the skies. Between them is just a momentary smile.

This is the first exhibition of such a scale presenting a broad panorama and chronology of the artist's oeuvre, consisting of works stored in the Lithuanian museum funds, private collections and works owned by the author. The exhibition also offers an opportunity to discover Kuras's original and artistic texts - the eyewitnesses of the changing era, representing the development of the author's ideas, and the most important creative principles, which created the foundation for postmodernist thinking in Lithuanian visual arts.

Curator Jolanta Marcišauskytė-Jurašienė

Architect Ūla Žebrauskaitė-Malinauskė

Graphic design  Laura Grigaliūnaitė

Light artist Milvydas Kezys

Coordinator Ernestas Parulskis

Coordinator of installation  Mindaugas Reklaitis

Lenders to the exhibtion:
MO Museum, M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, Lithuanian Film Centre,  Vilnius "Mintis" 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

Project funded by Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania

Organisers: Lithuanian National Museum of Art,  National Gallery of Art

Sponsors:"Exterus", Fundermax

Media Partners: JCDecaux, Artnews