Kumu invites you to the exhibition of graphic art by Avo Keerend and Evi Tihemets

Art Museum of Estonia
Kumu Art Museum

Press Release No. 102
23 October 2012

As of Wednesday, 24 October, the Kumu Art Museum opens its Graphic Art Room to the exhibition Avo Keerend and Evi Tihemets. Colour in Estonian Graphic Art. The exhibition uses the oeuvre of two Estonian art classics – Avo Keerend and Evi Tihemets – to illustrate the appearance of pure colours and geometric forms in the graphic art of Soviet Estonia.

“When socialist realism and the ‘rough style’ had run their course by the 1960s, powerful colours appeared in Estonian graphic art instead of greys and blacks,” says Anne Untera, curator of the exhibition and the warden of the graphic art collection of the Art Museum of Estonia. “From narrative and descriptive content, the focus moved to the internal developments in art, and media-centred issues. Whether it was conscious or not, the colour approach reflected faith in progress and optimism, the Sixties’ doctrine of human socialism.”

The ascetic purity of geometric forms in conjunction with bright colours created the illusion of balance and harmony. At the turn of the 1960s and 70s, Estonian graphic art was also strongly affected by international abstract expressionism and pop art, even though those influences reached here through several intermediaries.

Avo Keerend (1920–2012) experimented with multicoloured decorative forms (linocut and plastic cut) as early as the mid-1960s. In the exhibitions of that time, he mostly displayed biomorphic shapes and figural art, which he later gave up completely.

The series Stereoscopic Forms (1969, linocut) became the source of his more recent, modernist prints. Keerend’s geometric works from the 1970s allude both to the legacy of international modernism (Paul Klee and Joan Miró) and the reformation movements of Estonian art in the 1920s, particularly cubism and constructivism.

Avo Keerend studied graphic art in the years 1936–1940 at the State Industrial Art School in Tallinn. He participated in World War II as a combat artist and, after having spent 1945 to 1946 as a prisoner of war in Czechoslovakia, continued his art studies at various higher schools in Tartu and Tallinn, until he finally graduated from the Tartu State Art Institute in 1949 in the field of painting. As a graphic artist, he was one of the more productive, long-term and internationally acclaimed Estonian masters. Avo Keerend left this earth on 5 June 2012. The display of his early graphic work serves as a small obituary for the great man.

Evi Tihemets (1932) was the first to show coloured graphic art in exhibitions, around 1968–1969. The colour magic of her diverse oeuvre was born in 1967 with the lithograph Red Queen (inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There). The abstract Geometric Composition from 1972 was commissioned as an interior design element for the Viru Hotel; however, the work of art never reached there. It was the first work in the format of graphic murals so characteristic of Evi Tihemets.

Powerful geometric shapes have usually been combined in Tihemets’s oeuvre with portraits carried out in various techniques (e.g. drypoint), and with sketchy or even photographed figures. When portraying her friends and companions, the graphic artist often refers to complicated mental processes and always displays a strong social streak, even when playing around with forms. For instance, for the print Poet (1971) Tihemets used Jaan Klysheiko’s portrait photo of the young poet Paul-Eerik Rummo, placing a red quadrangle above his head, which has been interpreted as a red sun.

Evi Tihemets graduated from the State Art Institute of the Estonian SSR (currently, the Estonian Academy of Arts) in 1958 as a graphic book illustrator. Her oeuvre spans decades and has earned international recognition. The display of Evi Tihemets’s early coloured graphic art at the Kumu Art Museum is a compliment to the artist on her 80th birthday.

Design of the exhibition: Villu Plink

The Art Museum of Estonia would like to thank Evi Tihemets for lending her works for the exhibition.

The exhibition Avo Keerend and Evi Tihemets. Colour in Estonian Graphic Art will remain open until 10 February 2013.

Additional information:

Anne Untera
Curator of the exhibition
Tel. +372 524 6364
Kumu Art Museum
Weizenbergi 34 / Valge1