On the Road
Now on view at Kumu Art Museum, The National Museum of Estonian Art in Tallinn, the exhibition Thinking Pictures was developed in partnership with the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. It explores the dialogue between conceptual art from Moscow and from the Baltics in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the late Soviet environment of the time, conceptualism in art redirected gestures, utterances, narratives, images and objects from everyday life in order to undermine or even destroy their habitual meanings. Thus, unlike conceptual art in the western context, which often rejected the classical pictorial medium altogether, Soviet conceptualism did not abandon visuality, but instead defended and cultivated it. Artists created “thinking” images in response to the proliferation of propaganda images in the public space.
In the 1970s, in the Baltics, which were considered the most liberal and Western republics of the Soviet Union, a conceptual shift occurred in art. In Tallinn, Leonhard Lapin invited his fellow artists to “think-paint,” “think-burn” and “think-chop”. In Riga, Latvia, Miervaldis Polis started creating conceptual photorealism. And in Vilnius, Lithuania, a group of artists led by Kazė Zimblýtė organized conceptual games.
This exhibition grew out of Thinking Pictures: Moscow Conceptual Art from the Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection, organized by Jane Sharp at the Zimmerli in 2016. Among more than 300 works of art in the current exhibition, 125 are on loan from the Zimmerli.