The unusual personality and vivid talent of MAIJA TABAKA, after 35 years of active contribution to Latvian painting, still gives rise to debate as intense as it was at the beginning of her artistic development. Provocatively alien to the mainstream of Latvian painting of the 1970s, her art retains to this day its aureole of an off-beat phenomenon.
The artist had formed her own independent style of painting in the seventies when appeared characteristic figure compositions with portraits of the main heroes, detailed depiction of the environment, interiors and costumes. The people in her paintings personified the urban culture of the new age and demonstrated that which officially endorsed art was careful to hide: an interest in the private world and social escapism. Maija Tabaka was interested in young people who stood completely aloof from the ideals of the ruling ideology and were instead attracted more by the achievements of Western capitalism in rock and jazz, in contemporary design, art and undeniably also fashion. Glamorous figures, use of cinematic techniques: spotlighting the faces and attaching great importance to details, special costumes, staged unreal situations, the simultaneous representation of many layers of reality were characteristic to the images of Maija Tabaka’s paintings.
Success came to Tabaka surprisingly soon, most demonstratively in the international context. Thus, she participated in the 40th Venice Biennale, won German Academic Exchange Service DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst) scholarship competition (1977), judged by the jury of the Kassel Documenta of that year, and also became friends with Fluxus artist Wolf Vostell and with Valdis Āboliņš, an activist in the movement and important figure in West Berlin art structures, entering into a long-lasting correspondence with them.
Many times the artist has participated in exhibitions representing Latvian art abroad (exhibition „Riga – Lettische Avantgarde” in Berlin (1988), 3rd International Art Exhibition “20 Realists from the Soviet Union” in Düsseldorf (1973) ect.)
1979 saw an exhibition of Maija Tabaka’s work at the West Berlin Künstlerhaus Bethanien, in 1984 there was a solo exhibition in Central House of Artists in Moscow, in 1992 – solo exhibition in the State Museum of Art in Riga. The artist’s works were shown in numerous solo exhibitions in RIGA GALLERY.
Maijas Tabaka’s works are found in collections of the State Museum of Art (Riga), the Artists’ Union of Latvia Museum (Riga), the State Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow), Ludwig Museum (Cologne, Germany), Berlinische Galerie, (Berlin, Germany), Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum in Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA) as well as in many private collections.
Maija Tabaka’s solo exhibition in the State Museum of Art represents 48 important paintings which brightly characterise her creative work – from „Double Portrait of Uldis Razums and Atis Kļaviņš” painted in 1972 to recently finished painting „Virgins”. This important collection of Maija Tabaka’s creative work comes from the State Museum of Art, from the Artists’ Union of Latvia Museum, as well as from the largest private collection of the artist’s works – businessman’s Ainārs Gulbis fund.
Artworks which have gotten already an icon status such as „Wedding in Rundāle” (1974), „Women” (1974), „Artist Wolf Vostell with His Family” (1978), „Basketball. TTT” (1980), „Self-Portrait” (1981), are shown in the White Hall of the State Museum of Art. These paintings demonstrates an influence of photorealism because in the distant 1970s Maija Tabaka and a group of like-minded fellows – Bruno Vasiļevskis, Imants Lancmanis and others, had stable interest not only about Western Europe painting but also about American photorealism and its different manifestations.
The sensation of the exhibition is an artwork known only from reproductions – „Portrait of Maija Tabaka” made in 1978 by world famous German artist Wolf Vostell. The artist characterizes precisely the personality of Maija Tabaka and her artistic interests combining the image of a Romantic beauty with a coolly analytical gaze and a symbolic photo camera at centre.
Collection of artworks painted during period from the end of 1980s to now days are exhibited in the Russian Art Exposition Hall of the State Museum of Art. Significant part of it are amazing portraits by Maija Tabaka – here should be named favourite model of the artist an actress Regīna Razuma („Sad Regīna” (1986)) as well as the successful portrait of art historian and TV diva Tatjana Suta (1976) and others.
The nature and an organic presence of its pictorial elements in the characterization of the personality become a considerable research of artist’s interests („Mom” (1981), „Latvian Last Supper” (1989)), increase also different mystical spirits and an ubiquity of unreal images („Graveyards of Latvia” (1989)).
It is not possible to show in the exposition several important artworks painted during Berlin Period because they are not in Latvia anymore („What is Your Name?” (1977), „Jungle” (1977)) as well as many large scale figure compositions characterizing the artist’s style from 1990s to our days because tens of them are found in important private collections in the USA, Canada and France. Some of them are reproduced in the new catalogue of Maija Tabaka.
Publisher of the catalogue RIGA GALLERY.
Editor – Inese Rinķe, authors of exciting analytical texts – close friends of the artist from a period of study art historian Imants Lancmanis and art critic Jānis Borgs as well as Maija Tabaka herself who describes her life in West Berlin in 1977.
Catalogue designer – Ģirts Muižnieks.
The curator of the exhibition and the author of the exposition – art historian Inese Riņķe.
The curator of the exhibition from the State Museum of Art – art historian Ludmila Neimiševa.
Supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia.
Special thanks to Ainārs Gulbis and Kārlis Leiškalns.
Producer – RIGA GALLERY.