Sunday, April 15, 2012

Kenen joukoissa seisot? / I Ain't Marchin' Anymore! (an exhibition)

An exhibition at the Amos Anderson Art Museum, 2 March 2012 – 7 May 2012. Viewed on 15 April, 2012.

The official presentation: "One of the issues raised in connection with the recent presidential elections in Finland was the politicisation of art and artist. Political participation and the wish to influence political decisions is nothing new, however, as the exhibition I Ain't Marchin' Anymore! produced by the Amos Anderson Art Museum for spring 2012 shows. Examining the political tumult of the 1960s and 70s, the exhibition will be open from 2 March to 7 May 2012."

"The exhibition tells about the deep chasm between generations which emerged in the late 1960s, when the politicised youth questioned the entire notion of Western welfare, the customs and conventions the preceding generations had relied on. The turbulent year 1968 was a signal for many artists around the world, and the events were actively followed also in Finland. Anxiety built up as the media related stories of victims of violence in the Far East, Prague and Paris, as the threat of nuclear war was imminent and the political youth movement responded to the suffering of the Third World."

"The familiar and perhaps even provocative title of the exhibition embraces a number of visual artists coming from very different backgrounds, but who all, in their own ways, take a stand on topical issues in their art. The universal humanistic spirit can be discerned in the work of many artists of this period, but it was not until the onslaught of Finnish national icons by Harro Koskinen from Turku that the value debate became ubiquitous. Visible protests against the symbols of state power as well as traditional values generated a media uproar and a series of trials the like of which has never been seen in Finnish art since. But artist also examined such themes as consumerism, environmental degradation or the structural change of society, rural exodus."

"Along with the rise of the political left, says artist Kaj Stenvall, "it became important to depict the conflict between work and capital in the capitalist society, to fight alongside the working class on its terms, against imperialism and for peace, democracy and socialism." Artists defended the common people as well as their own rights as artists – as part of the working class of the country. The democratisation of art aimed to bring art closer to the public, to make pictures for the common people who did not frequent galleries. The formal requirement was that the pictures should be such that even viewers without any artistic training would understand the artist's aim. Mundane realism thus rose from the streets and factories to become a theme in art."

"The featured artists are Matti Helenius, Niilo Hyttinen, Tapio Junno, Kari Jylhä, Kimmo Kaivanto, Harro Koskinen, Markus Leppo, Leo Leskinen, Leo Lindsten, Rauni Liukko, Raimo Reinikainen, Arvo Siikamäki, Kaj Stenvall and Olli Viiri."

"Comprising more than 80 works of art, the exhibition is mounted on two floors in the museum."

"Open: Mon, Thu, Fri 10am–6pm, Wed 10am–8pm, Sat–Sun 11am–5pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
Exceptions to opening hours: 5 Apr. 10–17 | 6 Apr. closed | 7 Apr. 11–17 | 8 Apr. closed | 9 Apr. 11–17 | 30 Apr. 10–17 | 1 May closed"

"Épater le bourgeois" ("shock the bourgeois") is a favourite motto of artists, and in the 1960s and the 1970s such shocks were still possible, although the surrealist André Breton thought already in the 1940s, after WWII, that scandal had become impossible.

There is a room devoted to the desecration of the Finnish flag, another room with the theme of ridiculing Mannerheim, a hall with mock logos of global companies, and further rooms with photorealistic images of workers in the style of socialist realism. This was already the era of pop art, and now I can't help seeing dadaistic aspects in many of these works. There are also naivistic influences in the retro imagery of certain works.

The exhibition is intelligently mounted, the works look better on each renewed round, and the lighting does justice to them.

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