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ORNAMENT IS NOT A CRIME

Art Nouveau in the architecture of Lviv, Ukraine

Ornament is Not a Crime, a photographic exhibition depicting the Art Nouveau style of architecture in Lviv, Ukraine, is scheduled to open at The Ukrainian Museum on Sunday, April 28, 2002. The opening reception will begin at 2:00 P.M. The exhibit will be on view through July 28, 2002.

Ivan Levynskyj Firm
Apartment house, 1906-1907
Majolika panels and stucco decor of a gable
(14 Dontsov St., Lviv)

Ornament is Not a Crime, the title chosen for the present exhibition, is a reference to the radical dictum proclaimed at the dawn of the 20th century by the great Austrian architect Adolf Loos. In the Ornament und Verbrechen and his other theoretical works, the renowned master of avant-garde architecture argued for the complete removal of ornamentation from architectural designs, as he considered the phenomenon of ornament to be akin to crime. The thrust of Loos' radical criticism was, in the first instance, aimed at the Art Nouveau style, immensely popular around the 1900s and nevertheless condemned as an anachronism by the end of the first decade of the 20th century.

Since then, the artistic heritage of Art Nouveau has undergone a thorough reassessment. Its significance in the history of art and architecture has been universally acknowledged. This reappraisal of the style, known variously as Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Secession, and under a number of other names, is reflected in the title of the project: Ornament is NOT a Crime.

Tadeusz Obminski (?), Ivan Levynskyj Firm
Apartment house, 1905-1906
Mask, stucco decoration of a gable and majolica panel
(4 Bohomolets St., Lviv)

As well as making their contribution to the centenary of the Style 1900, the organizers of the exhibition have attempted to acquaint art lovers with a vivid and little-known aspect of the artistic culture of East Central Europe, by focusing on the architecture of Lviv - the biggest city of the western region of Ukraine. The exhibition Ornament is Not a Crime presents Lviv's numerous buildings of the early 20th century displaying the extraordinary Art Nouveau decoration.

Lviv has particular significance in the history of Ukraine, culturally fulfilling the function of a second capital (after Kyiv) and being extremely important frame of reference for the Ukrainian psyche. Lviv is Ukraine's western gateway, a terminal linking Ukraine to Europe. From its foundation in the 13th century the city developed as a fundamental point of exchange (in the widest sense, in terms of mutual influence in economic, political, religious and cultural spheres) between Eastern and Central Europe. Lviv's history if full of turbulent events, which left their mark on both its sacred and secular architecture.

The earliest of its churches, built by the descendants of King Danylo, founder of Lviv and ruler of Galician Rus, date from the 13th century and are within the Byzantine tradition. The King of Poland, who in the mid-14th century incorporated Lviv into his realm, funded the gothic Roman cathedral. The architectural ensemble of the Orthodox Church of the Assumption, built at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries by Italian craftsman, is a supreme example of the Lviv Renaissance style.

Edmund Zuchowicz Firm
Apartment house, 1905-1906
Decorations - mask and metalwork
(8 Rustaveli St., Lviv)

In 1772, after the first partition of Poland, Lviv became a part of the Habsburg Empire, and the capital of the most easterly of the Austrian crown lands. Its architecture clearly reflected the influence of the Viennese baroque and, subsequently, of Biedermeier.

During the period from the 1870s through the 1910s, a new feature of Lviv, relating to the city's important role as administrative, economic, and cultural center, became its intensive construction activity and the concurrent development of local architecture. As a result of the reforms carried out in the Austrian Empire in the 1860s, the status of Lviv/Lemberg - the capital city of the autonomous Kingdom of Galicia - was considerably enhanced, which created a need for new buildings or diverse types. Thus, the late 19th and the early 20th centuries turned out to be immensely creative era in Lviv's architectural history.

From the late 1890s onward, progress in the realm of architectural design and allied visual arts was accompanied by a widespread enthusiasm for the concept of Art Nouveau. Architecture of Lviv dating from ca. 1905 abounded in examples of this style, popularized by Tadeusz Obminski, Ivan Levyns'kyi, Alfred Sachariewicz, Wladyslaw Sadlowski, and other highly skilled architects. Lviv's reputation as one of the greatest Secessionist sites of East Central Europe derives from the creative work of these outstanding representatives of the local school of architecture. By the reckoning of the author of the exhibition displayed at The Ukrainian Museum, the number of architectural objects showing Art Nouveau ornamentation approaches within the city of Lviv to 800.

Architect (?)
Apartment house, 1901-1902
Mask and stucco relief
(1 Rudenska St., Lviv)

From around 1908, Art Nouveau style of Lviv's architecture entered the later stage of its development, to be superseded by the patterns of neoclassicism and early modernism just before World War I broke out.

Ornament is Not a Crime exhibition was presented in 1997 in the gallery of the Austrian Consulate General in Cracow, and in the Museum of Architecture in Wroclaw, Poland. Further presentations, supported by the British Council, took place in Britain, where the exhibition became a part of the International Festival of Architecture and Design Manifesto '97 in Edinburgh (1997), and of the Festival of Central European Culture organized under the aegis of the Austrian Cultural Institute in London (1998). Dr. Ihor Zhuk

Information about Dr. Ihor Zhuk, author of the exhibition

Tadeusz Obminski, Ivan Levynskyj Firm
Dnister Company building, 1905-1906
Decorations - stucco relief and majolica panels
(20 Ruska St., Lviv)

Ihor Zhuk, is not only the conceptual author of the exhibit Ornament is Not a Crime, but its designer, architectural photographer, writer of the descriptive notes and of this press release. He was born in Lviv in 1956. Having graduated from the Lviv Institute of Applied and Decorative Art and was a research fellow at the Institute of Art, Folklore and Ethnography of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. His doctoral thesis Decorative Details in Lviv Art Nouveau Architecture: Principles of Morphology and Systematization was defended in 1989. Since 2000 Dr. Zhuk has been engages as the curator of the collection of visual materials at the Lviv Theological Academy and director of the Leopolis Project, an electronic archive of the history of Ukrainian art developed by LTA.

The list of his works includes a number of art history publications, exhibition projects and electronic information resources. Among his scholarly awards are the Getty Research Fellowship for Scholars from Central and Eastern Europe, the British Academy Visiting Fellowship, and grants of the Fulbright Program, the Soros Foundation, and IREX.

Exhibit display.

Dr. Zhuk visited the United States as a participant of the Victorian Society of America Summer School in 1995, of the Getty Summer Institute at the University of Rochester in 1999, and several times as a guest scholar of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

Marta Baczynsky
Public Relations

 


 

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