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The Ukrainian Museum opens 'The Impact of Modernity: Late 19th and Early 20th Century Ukrainian Art'
David Burliuk (1882-1967), Farm Scene with Red Chicken n.d., oil on canvas board, 8 x 10 (20.3 x 25.4) UM 2018/59.

NEW YORK, NY.- The new exhibition The Impact of Modernity: Late 19th and Early 20th Century Ukrainian Art presents works never before shown that were recently donated to The Ukrainian Museum's permanent collection of fine art by Dr. Jurij Rybak and Anna Ortynskyj. The artworks range from classics of the late 19th and early 20th century to avant-garde experimental art of 1910–1930, from works produced in Ukraine (some prior to World War I and some during the interwar period) to others produced in the United States by artists who emigrated from Ukraine. Myroslav Shkandrij, Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of Manitoba, is the guest curator. He has previously curated exhibitions of avant-garde art and written extensively on twentieth-century Ukraine. The Impact of Modernity opened to the public on November 17, 2019, and will remain on view through May 3, 2020.

Dr. Rybak assembled the collection with his wife Anna Ortynskyj by visiting art dealers and auctions, by discovering works in overlooked stores, or by purchasing them from acquaintances. The historic avant-garde period became a particular interest for them. Thanks to the discernment and generosity of Dr. Rybak and Anna Ortynskyj, these works now form an important part of The Ukrainian Museum’s avant-garde holdings.

Representing the modernist period of the early 20th century are Oleksandr Murashko and Heorhii Narbut, two great artists who left a rich legacy and continue to exert a powerful influence on the development of Ukrainian art. Works by several leading artists known throughout the world are also included in the collection—Sonia Delaunay, who moved to France, and Vsevolod Nicouline (Nikulin), who went to Italy—and others such as Alexander Archipenko, Abram Manevich (Manevych), Simon (Semen) Lissim, Louis Lozowick, and David Burliuk, all of whom immigrated to the United States and made important contributions to sculpture, painting, and the graphic arts. Interwar Galicia (now Western Ukraine) produced a number of important artists such as Olena Kulchytska and Leopold Levytsky (Lewicki) who worked in graphic art, and the naïve Lemko painter Nikifor (Nykyfor) of Krynycia. Representing Ukrainian artists of the 1910-1930s are Kyiv painter Mykhailo Zhuk—best known for his decorative designs and portraits—and by the Kharkiv avant-gardists Vasyl Yermilov and Maria Syniakova. Some of the most innovative and exciting work from this period, however, was produced for the theater. The exhibition presents examples of costume art designed for avant-garde performances by the most prominent avant-gardists: Alexandra Exter, Vadym Meller, Isaac Rabinovich, Anatol Petrytsky, Mykhailo Andriienko-Nechytailo (Michel Andreenko), and Oleksandr Khvostenko-Khvostov. These objects can be viewed alongside those of designers like Serhii Kuchynsky, Alexander Kachinsky, and Vladimir (Volodymyr) Bobritsky, who immigrated to North America, where they also worked in theater and design.

"The exhibition presents a rare opportunity," writes Prof. Shkandrij, "to take in the breadth and scope of modern Ukrainian art within the context of international development. Previously unseen works by kindred spirits – artists of different backgrounds who all originally came from Ukraine – offer viewers the opportunity to see some of the greatest artists of the last two centuries and simultaneously to explore the unique homeland-diaspora relationship that their creativity represents."

Thirty-one artists are represented in The Impact of Modernity: Late 19th and Early 20th Century Ukrainian Art with nearly 80 artworks and books from the Museum's permanent collection. The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual, illustrated catalogue with an essay by the curator, as well as a brochure.

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