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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Wednesday, 12.08.2020, 04:33

Lithuanian-born American artist Jonas Mekas dies at 96

BC, Vilnius, 23.01.2019.Print version

Jonas Mekas, a Lithuanian-born American artist, poet and filmmaker, died at the age of 96 in his home in New York City on Wednesday morning.  Vilnius' former mayor Arturas Zuokas, a friend of Mekas, confirmed this to LETA/BNS.

"Jonas Mekas died in his home in Brooklyn, New York, this morning. His family were with him," he said. 

Mekas is one of the most famous Lithuanian artists of the 20th century. He is best known for his experimental films and often called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema". 

Born in Semeniskes, a village in Lithuania, on December 24, 1922, Mekas lived and worked in New York City for more than 50 years. 

In 1944, Jonas Mekas left Lithuania and was imprisoned in a POW camp in Germany. After the war, he was moved to displaced persons' camps.  He studied philosophy at the University of Mainz from 1946 to 1948. 

In late 1949, Jonas, together with his brother Adolfas, emigrated to the United States, settling in Brooklyn, New York, where began to record moments of his life and the life of other Lithuanians emigrants.

In 1954, together with his brother Adolfas, he founded the Film Culture magazine, and, four year later, began writing his Movie Journal column for The Village Voice.  

Mekas launched various avant-garde film festivals and, in the in the 1950s, got actively engaged in film criticism. He wrote for various US magazines, and, in later years, created one of the world's largest American avant-garde film archives.

Mekas collaborated with many artists such as Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Salvador Dali and Jurgis Maciunas.

His films won him international acclaim and awards in international festivals. 

The artist received the Lithuanian National Prize for Culture and Arts in 1995 and was awarded with the Grand Cross of the Order for Merits to Lithuania in 2003. 

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