La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis)

Vartai Gallery, Vilnius
October 22 -November 20, 2020

The exhibition La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis) is a solo presentation of works by the Norwegian artist Dag Erik Elgin consisting of text paintings developed for this exhibition in dialogue with works by the Lithuanian painter and composer Michaelis Čiurlionis (1870-1911). The text paintings will be exhibited in the context of two of Elgin’s painterly reenactments; The Black Sun by Čiurlionis (1909) and The Black Square (1915) by Kazimir Malevich.

La Collection Moderne is a longstanding painterly investigation of iconic modernist paintings, their provenance and the contextual and visual content of museum labels. The series has been presented at venues such as The National Museum Oslo, Hamburger Bahnhof Berlin, Fondation Hippocréne Paris and Nordic Museum Seattle. The present series is based on the museum labels and curatorial registrations of a selection of Mikaolus Čiurlionis works presently in the Čiurlionis Museum in Kaunas, with titles referring to music and sound like Sonata No. 5 (Sonata of the Sea) Finale and Sonata No. 6 (Sonata of the Stars) Allegro.

Accordingly, the text painting, La Collection Moderne (Munch), a painted version of the Oslo National Gallery’s museum label for Edvard Munch’s The Scream (1893) will be on display. Painted on a black square canvas, the work unites two artistic positions, frequently considered incompatible within the reception of the historical avant garde: While The Scream is seen as expressive and psychological, The Black Square has been considered conceptual and formally reduced. It is historically documented that Malevich was influenced by the work of Čiurlionis between 1890-1911, and the present exhibition further develops La Collection Moderne’s investigation of the reception of Malevich iconic painting.

During the Russian revolution, a number of Čiurlionis works disappeared, among them The Black Sun (1909) in the possession of Igor Stravinsky. Today, this painting is known only from a black and white illustration in the art magazine Apollo in 1911. Elgin’s painting Originals ( Čiurlionis Black Sun), a reenactment based on the illustration, will be on display together with the painting La Collection Moderne (Malevich), the English version of the label for Originals ( Čiurlionis Black Sun), translated into Cyrillic.

Technically the majority of Čiurlionis works were, like Munch’s The Scream, executed in the media crayon and pastel. Čiurlionis who trained as a composer, also shared Munchs affinity for referring to sound in the titles of his paintings. Although Munch and Čiurlionis developed individual pictorial universes, both artists have been ascribed roles as heroic modernist figures in the national narratives of their respective countries, crucial for Lithuania’s and Norway’s struggle for independence. Both countries gained national independence, respectively from Russia in 1918 and Sweden in 1905.

Installation view
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): Installation view

The Black Sun, 2020
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): The Black Sun, 2020

The Black Sun, oil on canvas 2020
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): The Black Sun, oil on canvas 2020

 (Munch / The Scream) oil on canvas
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): (Munch / The Scream) oil on canvas

(Munch) / (Malevich) oil on canvas
La Collection Moderne : (Munch) / (Malevich) oil on canvas

(Malevich / Black Square)
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): (Malevich / Black Square)

Sonata of the Sea
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): Sonata of the Sea

Installation view
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): Installation view

Sonata of the Stars
La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): Sonata of the Stars

La Collection Moderne (Čiurlionis): Finale