Gustav Klucis. Russian Avant-Garde Art in the 1920s–1930s
Location: 3rd floor, B-wing
During the First World War, dozens of young Latvian artists attended art schools in Russia and fought in riflemen units. Those who returned to their homeland are known today as the generation of Latvian modernists.
Gustav Klucis (1895—1938), after the October Revolution of 1917, decided to stay in Soviet Russia, and therefore he is recognized internationally as one of the leading Russian avant-garde artists, the co-creator of Constructivism and a pioneer of photomontage.
Gustav Klucis himself referred to his work as “laboratory” research. During early phases of Constructivism, he focused on solving formal problems, such as texture, space, colour and dynamics. Soon his experiments evolved into agitational tasks, and Klucis developed the photomontage poster into the most efficient type of mass art. The artist saw modern technology (e.g. photography, cinema and radio) as having the potential to synthesise new art forms and to tear down the barriers between visual art, design and architecture.
In the almost 20 years of creative life Gustav Klucis spent in Moscow, his art went through the full cycle of manipulation by the totalitarian regime. First he enjoyed illusory creative freedom, being involved in the building of the new state. Then official recognition was followed by the state’s clampdown on the avant-garde and the artist’s tragic fate, as he fell victim to Stalin’s Great Terror.
Choosing the experimental aspect of Gustav Klucis’s work as a leitmotif, his first-ever exhibition in Estonia sheds light on the artist’s creative progression, working methods, theoretical views and the most significant fields of his artistic endeavour. The artist’s body of work is marked by qualities that have survived the test of time, although his political engagement with a totalitarian regime remains an issue of controversy.
Since 1959 the Latvian National Museum of Art has housed the world’s largest and most comprehensive collection of Klucis’s works, thanks to a donation by the artist’s widow, Valentina Kulagina (1902—1987). Most of the works of art on exhibition also come from the collection of the Latvian National Museum of Art.
Curator: Iveta Derkusova
Coordinator: Karin Pastak
Exhibition design: Terje Kallast-Luure
Graphic design: Mari Kaljuste
An exhibition in collaboration with:
Latvian National Museum of Art
With the support of:
Nordic Hotel Forum