Laura Petrauskaitė — Bolivian, Mexican and Ecuadorian Art Exhibitions in Soviet Lithuania

In her research project, based on the approaches of discourse analysis and art criticism, Laura explores the history of Bolivian, Mexican and Ecuadorian art exhibitions in Soviet Lithuania. In the second half of the 20th century Vilnius saw at least seven exhibitions presenting artists from ‘Latin America’. Some of them were organized by Lithuanian museums with a special focus on local audiences, for instance an exhibition of Bolivian-Lithuanian artist Jonas Rimša (1977), whereas others were traveling exhibitions landing in Vilnius and other cities of the Soviet Union and its satellites, among them the Mexican Art Exhibition (1960), The Exhibition of Oswald Guayasamín (1982), and The Exhibition of Mexican Architecture (1982). Despite the fact that these shows were intended to promote the ideas of proletarian internationalism and so-called tropical socialism, paradoxically, they served as fields of inspiration to Lithuanian painters and sculptors who looked for ways to bypass ideological control and the aesthetic canon of the Soviet regime. Modernist sculptures and paintings by Vladas Vildžiūnas, Rimas Sakalauskas, Leopoldas Surgailis and Silvestras Džiaukštas are eloquent examples of this phenomenon. Laura’s research aims to explain how this inversion became possible and what role different temporalities played in it.

The investigation of the narratives of the above-mentioned exhibitions, the intentions of their organizers and curators, the social and political context, as well as critical discourse around them in mass media will reveal if Bolivian, Mexican and Ecuadorian art exhibitions and their reception in Soviet Lithuania served in creating individualized images of each country or artist or rather a unified image of ‘Latin America’? What characteristics did artworks on view in these exhibitions transmit of their countries of origin and that of ‘Latin America’? Did these images support or counter the narratives present in other media (films, literature, music, fashion)? What concepts of ‘Latin America’ competed during time and how they influenced each other?

Laura Petrauskaitė

Laura Petrauskaitė is a Lithuanian art historian based in Vilnius. Currently she is a research fellow at the Institute of Art Research at Vilnius Academy of Arts. She has a background in both the Social Sciences and the Humanities and holds a PhD in Art History. Her dissertation “Matas Menčinskas and His Contemporaries: The Significance of the Migration of Artists for the Modernization of Lithuanian Art in the First Half of the 20th Century” was awarded with the Lithuanian Best Dissertation Award in the category of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2019. Her research has been supported by the Lithuanian Research Council and the Lewben Art Foundation. Petrauskaitė specializes in cultural migration, East European and South American connections, and social art history. She is currently editing a special volume of peer-reviewed journal Acta Academiae Artium Vilnensis dedicated to cultural interaction between South America and Eastern Europe (forthcoming in 2022).


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