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Sixty Years an Artist: A Retrospective Exhibition of Works by Zenowij Onyshkewych

September 27, 2015 – June 5, 2016 (EXTENDED)

The Ukrainian Museum is pleased to present this comprehensive exhibition featuring the work of Zenowij Onyshkewych (b. 1929), a prolific Ukrainian American artist, whose oeuvre includes a wide range of mediums spanning sixty years of creative expression. This retrospective exhibition spanning his artistic career primarily showcases his landscapes, but also includes portraits and caricatures executed in oils, watercolors, and ink or pencil. The exhibition is comprised of more than 70 paintings and drawings selected by guest curator Olena Martynyuk, Ph.D. candidate at Rutgers University. Sixty Years an Artist: A Retrospective Exhibition of Works by Zenowij Onyshkewych opens to the public on September 30, 2015.

A product of two continents, Onyshkewych's creative heritage is a consequence of a complex personal history—that of a Ukrainian immigrant absorbing the European painting tradition through a strong American lens. Onyshkewych himself is a vivid embodiment of the impact that the cruelty of the 20th century—with its displacements, wars, ruptures, and losses—has had on human fate. After witnessing the terrors of the Second World War as a teenager in Poland, Austria, and Germany, young Zenowij relocated with his family to the U.S. in 1949. Settling on the Lower East Side of Manhattan Onyshkewych began taking classes at the Art Students League of New York. His teacher, Reginald Marsh, one of the best known chroniclers of 1930s and 40s New York, connected the young artist to the tradition of American urban modernism. While Onyshkewych was never fully devoted to urban visuality and street scenes, he reacted to this aesthetic through the dynamic energy and exuberant brushwork in his paintings.

After the Art Students League, Onyshkewych moved on to study at the National Academy of Fine Arts with the American Impressionist, Robert Philipp. Drafted to serve in the Korean War, Onyshkewych completed his education at Pratt Institute upon his return. There he grew more attracted to observing nature directly and spent more time working in oils and watercolors en plein air rather than in a studio. The artist further explored the Impressionist intricacy of the painting surface, and began to experiment with subtly nuanced colors and evanescent light effects. Growing inwardness, fascination with earlier epochs in art, and a general anti-modernist stance are hallmarks of his work and not surprising for someone who survived two wars, one as a youth and the other as a soldier.

Besides embracing Impressionistic traits, Onyshkewych underlines the interconnectedness of human beings with nature by juxtaposing tiny human figures with grandiose natural scenes. Rendered with just a few brushstrokes, the minute figures suggest a sense of being overwhelmed by events and memories of the times long gone. He turns an encounter with a landscape into poetic expression and personal sentiment. He evokes and develops the romanticism of a landscape with its capacity to express human emotions, most notably the sense of belonging, nostalgia, melancholy, or trepidation when confronted with the forces of nature.

Onyshkewych's work is found among prestigious American and international collections, including the Vatican, where he painted a life size portrait of Pope Paul VI commissioned for the official residence of the Pope. Onyshkewych's caricatures and editorial illustrations have appeared in The New York Times and The National Observer. He produced book covers for Reader's Digest, St. Martin's Press, McGraw Hill, and Random House, just to name a few. He taught life drawing and painting at Fairfield University for nearly 20 years. Zenovij Onyshkewych is a long-time resident of Ridgefield, Connecticut.

Exhibition Catalogue
A 57-page, color illustrated, softcover catalogue titled Sixty Years an Artist: Zenowij Onyshkewych. A Retrospective Exhibition accompanies the exhibition. The essay by guest curator Olena Martynyuk and the checklist are bi-lingual (English and Ukrainian). Available in the Museum's gift shop or online.



About the Museum

The Ukrainian Museum acquires, preserves, and exhibits articles of artistic or historic significance to the rich cultural heritage of Ukrainian Americans. Its collections include thousands of items of folk art, fine art, and archival material. At its founding in 1976 by the Ukrainian National Women's League of America, the Museum was hailed as one of the finest achievements of Americans of Ukrainian descent. Since then, and particularly since its move in 2005 to a new, state-of-the-art building in Manhattan's vibrant East Village, it has become known as one of the most interesting and dynamic smaller museums in New York City. Each year, the Museum organizes several exhibitions, publishes bilingual (English/Ukrainian) catalogues, and presents a wide range of public and educational programs, including concerts, films, lectures, courses, workshops, and special events.

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