Kaarel Kurismaa (b. 1939, Pärnu) is the first and most prominent sound art and sound installation artist in Estonia. A pioneer of kinetic art, his practice also expands to the fields of painting, animation, public space monumental art and stage installations.
Following his studies at Tartu Art School in late 1950s, Kurismaa entered the monumental painting department at the State Art Institute in 1965, while also working as an artist-decorator for the Tallinn Department Store. The job allowed him to work with a variety of readymade materials and forms, as well as offered an opportunity to exhibit his works at the store’s exhibitions. His first kinetic object comprised of a fireplace grid and several kitchen utensils originates from the year 1966, the first known kinetic object in Estonian art history.
Influenced by pop-art in the 1970s, Kurismaa continued to combine and reuse readymade materials, working around the limited access to consumer products in the USSR. The artist was also influential in Estonian new music scene throughout the decade, collaborating with the cult progressive rock group Mess and producing stage design for their performances.
From the late 1970s, Kurismaa worked on animated children’s films, painting, and public space commissions, realising close to ten kinetic and sound objects during the 1980s, though all of them have been demolished or lost. He resumed his focus on sound in the 1990s, concentrating on creating site-specific installations interacting with space using visual and acoustic means.
Kurismaa’s first retrospective exhibition “Yellow Light Orchestra” took place at KUMU Art Museum, Tallinn, in 2018, followed by a solo show “The Old Man and the Musical Score” at Temnikova & Kasela, Tallinn (2019-2020).