Kārlis Vītols' personal exhibition The Journey to America

From 2 October to 21 October 2020, Kalnciema Quarter Art Gallery will host artist and director Kārlis Vītols' latest personal exhibition, The Journey to America.

In the artist's thirteenth solo show, the main medium is the eye of the camera – in the form of photographs and video – which is focused on the solitude of an individual living on the outside. The artist has created an exhibition about a journey to America which never took place, echoing the current conditions of isolation which disrupt plans and force us to be content with the alternatives available in the imagination.

The future artist and director Kārlis Vītols was captivated by the transparencies made during the journey to America by his grandfather, artist-decorator, Aleksis Kalniņš. In 1997, inspired by a shot of a skyscraper, Vītols made his second film, about an ambitious screenwriter who wants to conquer America. The material was edited and soundtracked in 2020, revealing how the image of the land of opportunity, generated in culture, made the young people of the 90s wander between dreams and reality, longing replaced by sad resignation.

The behaviour characteristic of a visitor, with silent observation and a sense of isolation or not belonging, is present in both grandfather's photographs and grandson's watercolours. In contrast to Kalniņš' ideal landscapes, which are virtually devoid of people, in his series of works on paper, Vītols turns to the inhabitants of America. In his imagination he merges recently explored Google Maps street views with a collage of culture-historical characters, where gold diggers, cowboys, roadside motel visitors and inhabitants of foldable houses from abandoned corners of Middle America have been frozen in time.

For the series of black-and-white watercolours, the fascination with the photographic works of Inta Ruka (1958) and Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984) was the inspiration to play on the elements characteristic of this medium – the classical square format, fine gradations of grey, posing for the camera, out-of-focus faces and variations of a single composition seemingly resulting from the process of development. These imaginary personages drift between stylised cartoon characters, real people and the artist's patented mutants. The Americans gathered here look expectantly at the exhibition's visitors, awaiting the moment they will be brought to life in their imagination and allowed to inhabit, and not merely visit, their place.

The project is accompanied by three creative workshops for teenagers and children with art pedagogue Eva Vēvere, on which further information will follow.

Entry to the exhibition and participation in the workshops is free of charge.

The exhibition is curated by Sniedze Kāle.

The publicity image includes Kārlis Vītols' work Shelly designed by Alise Inta Štrause.

The project is realised by Studija Kokles and Mākslas arsenāla pētījumu fonds.

The exhibition was made with financial support from U.S. Embassy in Latvia and Education, Culture, and Sports Department of Riga City Council. We are grateful to our informative supporters – magazine Ir and portal Satori.lv as well as technical supporters www.skanagaisma.lv

Kalnciema Quarter Art Gallery is located in Riga, Kalnciema iela 35. Open from Monday to Saturday from 10 to 18.