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Shaping the Future: Environments by Aleksandra Kasuba

Shaping the Future: Environments by Aleksandra Kasuba

2021-07-14

The exhibition at Lithuanian National Museum of Art presents the creative heritage of the visionary Lithuanian American environmental artist Aleksandra Fledžinskaitė-Kašubienė-Kasuba (1923–2019), spanning seven decades of her work (1942–2019).
 
The core of the exhibition consists of works gifted by the artist to the Lithuanian National Museum of Art and a collection of 8,000 digital images as well as documents and objects that belonged to the Zubov counts and the Fledžinskas family from the holdings of Šiauliai Aušros museum. Two works created specifically for this exhibition are also displayed: a slide projection by Vytenis Jankūnas, documenting the artist’s works in public spaces in the United States of America and a computer game based on Kasuba’s book Utility for the Soul (1970–1975) developed by Weekend Warriors Studio.
 
Due to a confluence of historical circumstances, in her art Kasuba blended the ethical and cultural traditions of Lithuanian manor owners of the late nineteenth century and the first independent Republic of Lithuania (1918–1940) with New York’s democratically rebellious energy of the second half of the twentieth century, open to innovation and experiments.
 
The exhibition at Šiauliai Aušros museum splits into two each other complementing parts. Chaim Frenkel’s villa presents the artist’s early and experimental work, from plot reliefs, abstract mosaics to spatial elastic fabric environments and utopian collages.  Whilst the Venclauskiai family house presents the drawings, models and documentation of works shown in the public spaces of the United States of America.
 
The stories of both expositions are supplemented by documents testifying to the artist’s ties with her native Ginkūnai Manor, the Zubov counts and the Fledžinskas family. From the end of the eighteenth century, attention to the modernization and education of the economy of Šiauliai region was transferred from generation to generation, and during the press ban, there were secret Lithuanian schools for the children of workers in the farms of the Zubov counts. The members of A. Fledžinskaitė’s grandparents’ and parent’ families played music together. Children were taught foreign languages and also worked on the farm. All this shaped the future artist’s values since childhood, which helped to achieve the set creative goals.
 
Constructed chronologically, the exhibition presents and juxtaposes Kasuba’s applied, experimental, and hybrid art, her design and architecture practices, and her theoretical insights—her consistently developed vision of sustainable architecture as a social instrument, shelters without right angles. To emphasize the tenacity and universality of these aims, the title of Kasuba’s first solo exhibition Shaping the Future, which took place at the Esther M. Klein Gallery of the University City Science Center in Philadelphia in 1989, has been adapted as the title of the current exhibition. The artist is presented by the name of Kasuba, which she used while living in the USA and by which she is known on the international art scene.
 
The exhibition is centered around a motif of three houses––living spaces that were particularly important throughout the creative career of the artist who wanted to become an architect. The first is Ginkūnai Manor, the house of her grandparents, the Zubov, and her parents, the Fledžinskas; the family was ordered to leave the house in 24 hours when the Soviets occupied Lithuania in1940. In the studio of the second house near Central Park in Manhattan, New York, to which she moved with her family in1963, Kasuba installed her tensile-fabric Live-In Environment open to the public (1971–1972). The last house is Rock Hill House (2001–2005), located in New Mexico, with a residential house and a guest unit, which was built using her original K-method for membrane hardening. The artist lived there until 2012.
This unique narrative, which has no analogues in the development of Lithuanian modernism in its continuity and fulfillment of visionary endeavors, illustrates the artist’s persuasion that “creative development is determined only by the artist’s personal decisions and efforts, no matter in what regime he or she might live.”