Jonas Rimša’s Paintings in Public and Private Art Collections: Exotica or an Inconvenient Heritage? (Summary)

Laura Petrauskaitė (PDF)

Using the concepts of indigenism and primitivism, which are still rarely used in Lithuanian art history, the article reinterprets the works of Jonas Rimša (1903–1978), a Lithuanian artist who worked in Argentina and Bolivia, in a new postcolonial way and reveals the subversive nature of his art creation. It highlights that during his time in Bolivia, Rimša was actively involved in establishing indigenism as a national style that served the political purposes of building the identity and uniting a nation. At the same time, creation by Rimša is shown to be a practice of romanticising and mythologising indigenous people, denying their subjectivity and cultural, social and political significance in the life of the state. Unlike other indigenous artists from Bolivia and South America, in general, the artist’s choice is not due to an exotic view of Indians but rather to the specific experience of living in Eastern Europe, anti-communist attitudes and a desire to distance himself from Mexican muralists. In this context, the artistic legacy of Rimša is conceptualised as an uncomfortable heritage that encodes the tensions between the ‘own and the ‘foreign’ glimpse, between nationalism and colonialism and between representation and appropriation.

Keywords: South American art, Argentina, Bolivia, Modernism, Indigenism, Primitivism, Jonas Rimša, exhibitions, Lithuanian reception, migration of artists and artworks