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Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian rebel artist at Kumu museum

Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism at the KUMU Art Museum.
Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism at the KUMU Art Museum. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The new international exhibition brings together the works of Italian Transavantgarde artists from the 1980s and Estonian rebel artists from what has been considered hitherto a "lost decade" in Estonian art history.

The exhibition features a selection of works by the Italian Transavantgarde, formed in the late 70s, displayed side by side with works by Estonian painters of the same period, Raoul Kurvitz and Urmas Muru.

Despite being born on the other side of the Iron Curtain, Kurvitz and Muru's "Calm Expressionism" – as the artists dubbed it – is a northern version of the Italian avant-garde.

Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism at the KUMU Art Museum. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"Even though there were no connection between the West and the East in Europe at the time, the Geist was similar. It wasn't even a matter of style, but of artists on both sides deciding to be free and use it to figure out what they could take from what had come before them, and what they could achieve themselves," Fabio Cavallucci, the curator of the exhibition, said.

While the Italians, in their search for innovation, turned to their cultural history, Group T, founded by Kurvitz and Muru, sought to establish new ways of thinking in art as-though the past did not matter.

Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism at the KUMU Art Museum. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Kumu Art Museum said that one of the goals of the exhibition was to draw attention to Estonian painting from the 1980s, the period in art history that has also been called the "lost decade."

During the transition period, the artistic community maintained a certain distance from daily politics. The 1980s were perceived as somewhat "uninteresting" in art history in comparison to the tremendous changes in other fields that would follow the restoration of Estonia's independence. This decade still needs to be seriously studied, the curators explained.

Raoul Kurvitz. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

"We are rebels from birth. But there was no point in revolting if you were going to be imprisoned, but in the mid-1980s, when perestroika arrived, we felt liberated. Hooligans that we were, we quickly began testing our limits and grew increasingly daring," Kurvitz told ERR.

The young Estonian artist didn't receive much input from behind the Iron Curtain, but what they did get had a tremendous impact – they were inspired by the freedom and corporeality of the Italian Transavangard, Kurvitz recalled. "It was so overwhelming," he said.

The exhibition "Borderless Universe in Their Minds: Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism" is on display in the Kumu Art Museum until May 19.

Italian Transavantgarde and Estonian Calm Expressionism at the KUMU Art Museum. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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