Among the events taking place in 2018 is “From a Dove of Peace to a Sea Monster” ("No miera baloža līdz jūras briesmonim"), a cycle of five lectures given by art historian and curator of the Boris and Ināra Teterev Foundation’s “Art in Public Space” programme, Helēna Demakova, in which she examines the history of Western contemporary art in the 20th century and recent and current developments within this field in the 21st century.
The lectures are intended for the general public and do not require any prior knowledge. They focus on various art movements, whose development during the 20th and 21st centuries manifested itself in unusual ways. Each art theme relates to a lengthy period of time, i.e. at least the past century. The title of the lecture cycle encompasses the passage of time from Pablo Picasso to Damien Hurst in 2017.
The first lecture in the cycle “The Human (and Animal) Figure in History, Passion, Desire and Everyday Life” took place on 19 January. This richly illustrated lecture reflected the depictions of the human (and occasionally animal) figure in the creative output of many artists belonging to various art movements. It does not mention those characters which directly resonate with the flow of mass cultural images, because this is the subject of another lecture. Instead, this lecture is about the human and animal figure (e.g. David Hockney’s late and beloved dog Stanley) in art and features emotional characters that are essentially expressive or static, narrative or schematic, domestic or heroic, or idealized or deformed, etc.
The second lecture in the cycle “The Twists and Rectangles of Abstraction” examines the evolution of this movement during the 20th and 21st centuries. Beginning with the ideas of Wasilly Kandinsky, Kazimir Malevich and the Russian constructivists, subsequently the story proceeds to consider non-objective art in the West, and concludes with works produced during the digital era. The geometric and expressive abstractionism considered during the lecture is richly illustrated. Land art and minimalism are not mentioned in this lecture, because they are examined during the fourth public lecture devoted to ideas and language.
The third lecture “Anti-Art, Daily Life and Mass Culture” considers the art movement that was initiated at the start of the 20th century by the French-American artist Marcel Duchamp. Over the course of the 20th century, several art movements touched on real life with its material and ideological testimonies, and coincidental or iconic testaments. In the 21st century too, mass culture and domestic life are among the central themes of current art. The lecture draws the audience’s attention to artistic phenomena in all art genres and media.
The fourth lecture “Ideas, Language and Politics” considers conceptual art from the 1960s onwards. Several important art movements are referenced and many reproductions of works by major artists are presented. Art based on language and ideas was continues to be actively present on both sides of the ocean, including in former Eastern Europe. More often than not, conceptual art is related to social activism in the most diverse forms, including process art. During the lecture, particular consideration is given to the German artist Joseph Beuys.
The fifth lecture “The Thirst for Images and Stories” is dedicated to the relative postmodernism or second modernism, which is generally considered to date back to the mid-1970s. Colourful and conceptually multi-layered painting, staged photography, sculpture full of fantasy and installation are only a few of the subjects covered during this lecture. The lecture demonstrates the connection between this art, art history and the great tales and myths of history. In conclusion, several examples of new art from the 21st century are presented which do not avoid aestheticism, simultaneously attesting to the power of beautiful and clear ideas.