In 1910, Austrian architect Adolf Loos published an essay “Ornament and Crime”, where he criticised décor in contemporaneous production, claiming that it is amoral to waste resources on adding unnecessary ornament. Loos was not the only one, other famous modernists, including Le Corbusier, were also indifferent or even hostile towards décor. The ‘ideal’ modern house is white, without any decorations. Yet it is only a fragment in the history of ornament. The 20th-century design included not only pure colours and innovative shapes but also diverse ornaments, and the study of them allows us not only to show a new side of modernism but also to demonstrate the variations of regional modernism.
This exhibition focuses on the phenomenon known as the Baltic Modernism. Through ornament, this exhibition presents the history of regional modernism of three Baltic countries of closely intertwined cultural histories during the Soviet occupation. The aim is to show the similarities and variations in the designs of the three countries by introducing the principles of local modernism when many objects and tendencies presented may not correspond to the paradigms of traditional modernism and, thus, fall in the realm of alternative histories. It is also interesting to observe an ornament in Soviet culture. On the one hand, an ornament carries an important role in objects influenced by crafts and folk arts, while on the other hand, it can also be seen as an anomaly in the production system built on rationalisation. Kaunas Public Library as a fascinating landmark from the same period is used as a background, to put the objects back into the context where and for which they were created.
The objects on photos are from the collections of Lithuanian National Museum of Art,
Latvian National Museum of Art and Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design
Exhibition was supported by the Research Council of Lithuania.
Curator: Triin Jerlei (Vilnius University)
Graphic design: Jesse O’Neill
Read more: Ornament and Baltic modern design, 1955–1985