Coinciding with the centennial of his birth, the exhibition surveys Mekas’s 70-year career and includes 11 films presented in an immersive environment, photography, and previously unseen archival materials.
Forced to flee his native Lithuania during the final moments of World War II in 1944, Mekas was unable to return until 1971. After spending five years stateless and homeless in a Nazi work camp and then Displaced Persons camps throughout Germany, Mekas (b. 1922, Semeniškiai, Lithuania; d. 2019, Brooklyn, New York) emigrated to New York City with his brother Adolfas in 1949. A penniless, war-weary refugee, he swiftly integrated into the city’s thriving counterculture nonetheless, becoming a central organizer, and later a prolific filmmaker, within the avant-garde community. Like many emigrés in the aftermath of World War II—as for so many across the globe today—his art was profoundly marked by his refugee experience: the loss, memory, and longing for a home he permanently left behind in 1944. The relationship between exile and creativity is always at the heart of his work and is the exhibition’s central theme.
Image: Jonas Mekas photographed by Antanas Sutkus in Semeniškiai, Lithuania, 1971. © Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York / LATGA-A, Vilnius