This article is part of our latest dedicated museum section, which 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 completed nine brightly colored works on paper. A 1909 publication of “The War of the Mushrooms”, illustrated by prominent Ukrainian graphic artist Heorhii Narbut, inspired Mr. Kravtsov’s new creations, which re-imagine that classic Slavic fairy tale of good and evil through scenes of Russia’s current war with Ukraine.
The work of Mr. Kravtsov depicts Ukrainian soldiers as mushrooms, the Russians as peas. An image shows Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia – King Pea – at one end of a long table in a bunker, isolated from his advisers. Another represents Ukraine’s struggle for Snake Island in the Black Sea, a strategic spot in 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 struggle for my country’s freedom. Putin is trying to change the past, but there is no future without the past.”
Maria Shust, the director of the Ukrainian Museum in New York, where the series “The War of the Mushrooms” by Mr. Kravtsov said there is a strong tradition of displaying Ukrainian art in the United States. It became a means for Ukrainians in the diaspora to prove their country’s existence, she said, an effort that dates back to the early 1930s. “Four million Ukrainians died in the famine caused by Stalin, and Putin is doing the same,” she said, referring to the disaster known as the Holodomor.
There is also a strong tradition among Ukrainians – and not just the rich – to support artists. “If you’re an immigrant fleeing the country, what do you take with you, especially during a war?” said Mrs Shust. Many bring artwork with them, she said, such as dozens of rare pysanky — Ukrainian Easter eggs — taken when their owner escaped during World War II, which are on display in the “In Bloom: Nature and Art” exhibit. Other shows include “The Impact of Modernity,” which features rarely shown 19th- and early 20th-century works and avant-garde experimental art from 1910-30, and “The Ceramic World of Slava Gerulak,” an artist based in New York.
Two exhibitions are expected to open in early May. One will feature photos from the war of Maks Levin, a Ukrainian photojournalist who was found dead on April 1 in a village outside Kiev. Another will consist of rotating displays in the lobby about museums bombed during the war, with photos of before and after the destruction.
A number of institutions across the country focus on Ukrainian culture and history through permanent and special exhibitions of archival material, traditional folk art, and visual arts. Many offer workshops, lectures and other events. Here’s a summary:
The Ukrainian Arts Center, a 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 by Ola Rondiak, an Ohio-born artist who explores her Ukrainian heritage through vibrant painted portraits of women, as well as sculptures modeled after traditional Ukrainian motanka dolls.
About 20 percent of the Ukrainian Museum and Library’s extensive collections at Stamford – the book and magazine collection alone contains more than 60,000 items – are usually on display. During the summer there are exhibitions with a selection of painted landscapes, Byzantine icons, carvings and rare books, some from the 15th and 16th centuries.
Until June 4, at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago, the interactive exhibition “Protest Art Call for Participation” invites the public to share its reactions to the war in Ukraine through drawings, writings and poetry. There are tables of necessities, and protest-themed works from the permanent collection of Ukrainian artists like Anton Kandinsky and Jurij Solovij are hung nearby for inspiration. At the beginning of June, the institute is organizing an investigation into the modernist painter Michel Andreenko, a Ukrainian-born refugee living in Paris. Before his death in 1982, he asked the owners of the collection in Chicago “to keep his work in the United States because he feared reprisals from the Soviet Union,” said Adrienne Kochman, the institute’s curator, referring to artists’ incidents “picked up by the KGB and disappear, only to be found dead later.”
At the Ukrainian National Museum in Chicago, exhibits now on display through the end of the year include genocide in 1932-33, refugees fleeing World War II, and paintings by Ivan Marchuk, an 85-year-old artist in Kiev, known for creating a technique for applying paint in entangled fine lines. “At the beginning of the war in February, he wrote that he was happy that ‘his children’ – his paintings – were protected in the US,” said Maria Klimchak, the museum’s curator. “He is the van Gogh, the Monet, for Ukrainian culture.” A presentation will open in May on the impact of war on children through the eyes of Ukrainian journalists and photojournalists.
The Ukrainian-American Archives and Museum near Detroit currently displays “Treasures of Our Homeland,” a collection of decorative and utilitarian cultural artifacts such as traditional festive embroidered clothing and textiles, and “Batik Designs and Creations,” comprised of Chrystyna’s work. Nykorak, a local textile designer of Ukrainian descent.
How the war in Ukraine affects the cultural world
Highlights at the Ukrainian History and Education Center in Somerset include religious and audio materials, as well as a genealogy group that helps participants research their Ukrainian heritage. A current exhibit, “Autonomy Lost and Regained,” which opened in 2021, “has proved eerily prescient,” said Michael Andrec, the center’s archivist. “It’s about the emotionally charged relationship between Ukraine and Russia in the religious field, but it also touches on geopolitics, culture and art.” Upcoming exhibitions will examine the Holodomor, “particularly the representation of that genocide in art,” he said.
The Ukrainian Institute of America in New York offers exhibitions by modern and contemporary artists from Ukraine and of Ukrainian descent. A mid-career overview of paintings, sculptures and graphics by Oleh Denysenko, currently residing in Lviv, will be on display from May 20 to June 19. Best known for his intricate etchings depicting fantastical and metaphorical subjects, the artist will feature recent works in the show rendered in a new technique he has created. Called “gessographia” it combines the age-old methods of engraving with gesso, screen printing and hand coloring. An exhibition of sculptures, paintings and drawings by 20th-century artist Alexander Archipenko is on display through December 31.
Thousands of photographs of life in Ukraine and the diaspora, newspapers and magazines from 150 years ago to the present day, and 17th-century maps are among the items in the Ukrainian Museum Archive in Cleveland. The current exhibition features work by Sasha Maslov, a Kharkiv-born photographer living in New York. Entitled ‘Ukrainian Railway Ladies’, it highlights the women who work as traffic cops at railway crossings and examines their lives and why their profession still exists in the 21st century.
Olga Liskiwskyi, the executive director of the Ukrainian-American Archives and Museum, said that since the war broke out, she and colleagues from other institutions have seen renewed public interest in visiting and helping refugees. In Ukraine, museums, libraries and archives are rushing to secure their treasures. Storing Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Online, an international group of more than 1,300 cultural heritage professionals, helps Ukrainian institutions to digitally preserve documents, artworks and other materials.
“For decades, the Ukrainian diaspora has been the guardians of the flame,” said Ms. Liskiwskyi, “because so much has been deliberately destroyed in Ukraine.”
Lauren Messman contributed to the report.