Antanas Sutkus. Nostalgia for Bare Feet

07.04.2016 — 29.05.2016

The exhibition features more than one hundred works created by the master of Lithuanian photography between 1959 and 1979, many of which have never been shown before.

Antanas Sutkus is widely recognized as the forefather and inspirer of Lithuanian school of photography, which flourished on the western outskirts of the Soviet Union during the 1950s–1970s. Since his childhood, Sutkus dreamed of becoming a journalist. From 1958 to 1964, he studied at Vilnius University, where he became disillusioned with Soviet journalism and began to devote himself to photography. He was at the roots of the famous Lithuanian Association of Art Photographers and for a long time served as its Chairman. In the 1950s, when Sutkus just started taking photographs, photographic tradition was yet to be developed in Lithuania. He worked with no reference to any style or aesthetics. However, it is evident that Sutkus was inspired by cinema and literature. He drew on works by Franz Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Ivan Bunin, Vladimir Nabokov, and Gabriel Garcia Marques…

Famous Lithuanian critic and art historian Margarita Matulite wrote about the master, “Antanas Sutkus is justly called Homer of Lithuanian photography – the continuous oeuvre of his whole life is an epic poem, assembled from fragments of everyday life.” Sutkus’ works are underpinned by ideas of psychologism and humanism. With immense respect for people and a penetrating gaze, Sutkus presents his subjects – a passerby, a neighbour, or especially a child – as a tribute to Man. This may be the reason why Sutkus’ heroes look into his camera without any confusion or fear.

The strength in his works, especially in Nostalgia for bare feet series, comes from intuition, spontaneity and acute observation. He shows a persistent interest in the here-and-now of his subjects in whatever context he catches them: walking in a nonchalant manner down the streets or posing like dandies on the market place. Children feel absolutely free in front of his camera, they are not ashamed of their worn-out dresses and panties, faces smeared with soot or disheveled hair. Sutkus portrays children on the cusp of adulthood who present themselves with self-possession and seeming confidence.

Nostalgia for bare feet includes works from Antanas Sutkus’ seminal series People of Lithuania – a lifelong survey of Lithuanians. Among them – the famous report on the school for blind children in Kaunas, stunning series on Sutkus’ son, Simas, and the award winning Pioneer (1964). Along with original prints from the Lumiere Brothers Center for Photography collection the exhibition will feature never-before-seen prints from Antanas Sutkus’ archive.

The exhibition is supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Russia and by Antanas Sutkus` Photography Archive.

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