A myriad of museums preserve the spirit of Ukraine

This article is part of our latest special section on museums which focuses on new artists, new audiences and new ways of thinking about...


This article is part of our latest special section on museumswhich focuses on new artists, new audiences and new ways of thinking about exhibitions.


Nikita Kravtsov, a Ukrainian artist born in Crimea and now based in Paris, recently traveled to New York, where he produced nine works on wallpaper painted in bright colors. A 1909 publication of “The Mushroom War”, illustrated by prominent Ukrainian graphic designer Heorhii Narbut, inspired Mr. Kravtsov’s new designs, which reimagine this classic Slavic fairy tale of good and evil through scenes of Russia’s current war with Ukraine.

Mr. Kravtsov’s work depicts Ukrainian soldiers as mushrooms, Russians as peas. An illustration depicts Vladimir V. Putin, the President of Russia — King Pea — at one end of a long table in a bunker, isolated from his advisers. Another depicts Ukraine’s battle for Snake Island in the Black Sea, a strategic location within its territorial waters.

“It was very important for me to show the reality of what is happening,” Mr. Kravtsov said in an interview, “to show the heroic fight for the freedom of my country. Putin tries to change the past, but there is no future without a past.

Maria Shust, director of the Ukrainian Museum in New York, where Mr. Kravtsov’s “The War of the Mushrooms” series is on view all summer, said there is a strong tradition of exhibiting Ukrainian art in the United States. It became a way for Ukrainians in the diaspora to prove their country’s existence, she said, an effort that grew out of the early 1930s. “Four million Ukrainians died in the famine brought on by Stalin, and Putin does the same,” she said, referring to the disaster known as the Holodomor.

There is also a strong tradition among Ukrainians – and not just among the wealthy – to support artists. “If you are an immigrant fleeing the country, what do you take with you, especially during a war?” Mrs. Shust said. Many bring with them works of art, she said, such as dozens of rare pysanky – Ukrainian Easter eggs – which were taken when their owner escaped during World War II, which are in the exhibition “In bloom: nature and art.” Other shows include “The impact of modernity“, with rarely shown works from the 19th and early 20th centuries and avant-garde experimental art from 1910 to 1930, and “The world of ceramics by Slava Gerulak», a New York-based artist.

Two exhibitions are scheduled to open in early May. One will present photographs of the war by Marc Levin, a Ukrainian photojournalist who was found dead on April 1 in a village outside kyiv. Another will consist of rotating exhibits in the lobby on museums that were bombed during the war, with photographs taken before and after the destruction.

A number of establishments across the country focus on Ukrainian culture and history through permanent and special exhibitions of archives, traditional folk arts and artwork. Many offer workshops, conferences and other events. Here is a summary :

California

the Ukrainian Art Centera one-room museum and gallery nestled in the Ukrainian cultural center in Los Angeles, lacks the organization — and space — of more established institutions, but its president, Daria Chaikovsky, is often on hand to share information with visitors. The collection, she said, includes works by Ukrainian artists Alexis Gritchenko, Kateryna Krychevsky-Rosandich and Bohdan Borzemsky. It also houses large-scale contemporary pieces from Ola Rondiakan Ohio-born artist who explores her Ukrainian heritage through vibrant painted portraits of women, as well as sculptures inspired by traditional Ukrainian motanka dolls.

Connecticut

About 20 percent of the Ukrainian Museum and Stamford LibraryThe extensive collections of — the collection of books and periodicals alone contains more than 60,000 items — are usually on display. Exhibitions running throughout the summer include a selection of painted landscapes, Byzantine icons, woodcarvings and rare bookssome from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Until June 4, at Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, the interactive exhibition “Art of protest Call for participationinvites the public to share their responses to the war in Ukraine through drawings, writings and poetry. Tables are set with supplies and protest-themed works from the permanent collection of Ukrainian artists like Anton Kandinsky and Jurij Solovij hang nearby for inspiration. In early June, the institute will host a survey of the modernist painter Michel Andreenko, a refugee of Ukrainian origin who lived in Paris. Before his death in 1982, he asked the owners of the Chicago-area collection “to be guardians of his work in the United States, as he was afraid of Soviet reprisals,” said Adrienne Kochman, curator of the institute, referring to incidents of artists. ‘ “being picked up by the KGB and disappearing, only to be found dead later.”

At Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago, topics in exhibits on view through the end of the year include the 1932-33 genocide, refugees fleeing after World War II, and paintings by Ivan Marchukan 85-year-old artist in Kyiv known for creating a paint application technique in thin intertwined lines. “At the start of the war in February, he wrote that he was happy that ‘his children’ – his paintings – were protected in the United States,” said Maria Klimchak, the museum’s curator. “He is the van Gogh, the Monet, for Ukrainian culture.” A presentation on the impact of war on children through the eyes of Ukrainian journalists and photojournalists will begin in May.

Michigan

the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum near Detroit currently presents “Treasures of our homeland“, a collection of decorative and utilitarian cultural artifacts like traditional festive embroidered clothing and textiles, and”Batik designs and creationsfeaturing the work of Chrystyna Nykorak, a local Ukrainian-born textile designer.

New Jersey

Highlights at Ukrainian Center of History and Education in Somerset include religious and audio material, as well as a genealogy group which helps participants research their Ukrainian heritage. An exhibition in progress,Autonomy lost and regainedwhich opened in 2021, “proved strangely prescient,” said Michael Andrec, the center’s archivist. “It deals with the tense relationship between Ukraine and Russia in the field of religion, but also touches on geopolitics, culture and art.” Upcoming exhibitions will explore the Holodomor, “particularly the depiction of this genocide in art,” he said.

the Ukrainian Institute of America in New York presents exhibitions of modern and contemporary artists from Ukraine and of Ukrainian descent. A mid-career study of paintings, sculptures and graphics by Oleh Denisenko, currently living in Lviv, will be on view from May 20 to June 19. The artist, who is best known for his intricate prints that depict fantastical and metaphorical subjects, will have recent works in the exhibition that are rendered in a new technique he created. Called ‘gessographia’, it combines centuries-old methods of printmaking with gesso, screen transfers and hand coloring. An exhibition of sculptures, paintings and drawings by the 20th century artist Alexander Archipenko is on view until December 31.

Ohio

Thousands of photographs illustrating life in Ukraine and the diaspora, newspapers and periodicals dating from 150 years ago to the present day, and maps from the 17th century are among the exhibits at the Museum-Archives of Ukraine in Cleveland. The current exhibition features works by Sasha Maslov, a Kharkiv-born photographer living in New York. Entitled “Ladies of Ukrainian Railwaysit spotlights the women who work as traffic wardens at level crossings and explores their lives and why their profession still exists in the 21st century.

Olga Liskiwskyi, executive director of the Ukrainian American Archives and Museum, said that since the war began, she and her colleagues at other institutions have seen renewed public interest in visiting and helping refugees. In Ukraine, museums, libraries and archives are rushing to safeguard their treasures. Safeguarding Ukrainian cultural heritage onlinean international group of over 1,300 cultural heritage professionals, helps Ukrainian institutions digitally preserve documents, artworks and other materials.

“For many decades, the Ukrainian diaspora has been the guardian of the flame,” Ms. Liskiwskyi said, “because so much has been deliberately destroyed in Ukraine.”

Lauren Messman contributed reporting.



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