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Out of Tradition: Contemporary Decorative and Applied Art
28 April 29 September, 2013
Organized by The Ukrainian Museum, the exhibition Out of Tradition: Contemporary Decorative and Applied Art features the work of 35 contemporary decorative artists of Ukrainian background from Ukraine, the United States, and Canada. The aim of the exhibition is to showcase works from the innovative realm of contemporary art and design that are rooted in the tradition and aesthetic of Ukrainian folk art. Ceramics, jewelry, textiles, high-fashion clothing and accessories, and decorative items crafted from wood, glass, and silver are among the more than 150 objects in this major exhibition. Out of Tradition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue with an introduction by Jaroslaw Leshko, Professor Emeritus of Art, Smith College, and an essay written by Tamila Pecheniuk and Halyna Kusko, art historians and docents in the Art Textiles Department at the Lviv National Academy of Art.
Amplifying the main exhibition are selected objects drawn from the Museum's extensive collection of folk art. Traditional Ukrainian costumes and other textiles, pysanky (Ukrainian Easter eggs), gerdany (bead-strung necklaces), and ceramics serve to complement the contemporary works of art that allude to the ancient art forms. Shown separately, a collection of traditional Hutsul ceramics and the unique black-smoked ceramics from the Havarechyna region in Ukraine, brought together from various sources, underscores the rich artistry of Ukrainian culture.
Exhibition catalogue introduction by Prof. J. Leshko
The state of the decorative arts as assessed through the prism of the artists in the current exhibition flows out of two distinct, yet complementary currents of present and past. The 20th century was witness to the revolutionary dissolution of artistic boundaries, facilitating an interactive relationship among all disciplines. This momentous shift had an enormous impact on the very nature, indeed stature, of the decorative arts. The availability of new methods and materials further enhanced the possibilities for self-expression.
The distinguishing feature of the present exhibition is the artists' Ukrainian descent, whether they are from Ukraine itself or the United States. Their symbiotic link with the rich history of Ukrainian decorative arts is a major leitmotif of the show.
The decorative arts in Ukraine run deep in the nation's consciousness and cut across societal and geographic boundaries. Each region takes pride in its own distinctive design, which only adds to the rich panoply of the whole. The unifying thread is the high quality of the work and its universal acceptance. Decorative art is avidly collected, proudly displayed and carefully passed down from generation to generation. It plays an integral part in religious, national and family holidays. Over the centuries of oppression, it kept alive the identity and spirit of a nation.
The story of Ukraine's decorative art is a living and evolving one. Among its ardent proponents are some of Ukraine's most celebrated artists. Sonia Delaunay's coloristic vibrancy and clarity are indebted to it. Kasimir Malevich's experiments with faceless heads can be traced to his interest in the similarly rendered heads of folk dolls.
The wide repertory of Ukrainian decorative art is in large measure dependent on natural forms, design motifs of the pre-Christian era and the spiritual art of Byzantium. When in the late 19th and 20th centuries the Neolithic Trypillian culture and Scythian gold treasures were excavated from the soil of Ukraine, they were viewed as a validation of a cultural continuum. Decorative artists quickly assimilated the curving designs of Tripyllian pottery into their work. Alexander Archipenko, Ukraine's greatest sculptor, who was starting his career at the time of the Neolithic discoveries, owes the sinuosity of his line in part to Trypillian design.
The exhibition brims with works of decorative and applied art that belong to the present moment - fully reflective of the current practices in the field. Yet to reference tradition in this context is both valid and necessary. Some of the artists in the exhibition make the link overtly, others evoke it more subtly. All are aware of its centrality for their art. Ukrainian decorative art anchors and emboldens these artists to explore and experiment; to unleash their imagination and take their creative impulse to new places.
Watch the exhibition videos (less than a minute each)!
A very special soirée
The Museum was awash in red and aglow in a festive atmosphere Saturday evening, February 16, as over 100 guests gathered for the first-ever Valentine Soirée fundraiser. And what a soirée it was!
Champagne, wine, and a special Valentine cocktail flowed all evening, as servers passed a variety of scrumptious hors-d'oeuvres prepared by chef Andrij Sonevytsky while violinist Valeriy Zhmud and guitarist Sergei Pobedinski entertained guests with beautiful love songs, Gypsy music, and more, inspiring some guests to dance and sing along to the melodies.
In keeping with the theme, the color red was predominant; high-top tables were covered in red tablecloths, and red balloons, red roses, and red heart chocolates adorned every table. A "Parisian flower market" under a large umbrella in the Museum lobby overflowed with hundreds of red roses in boxes and tin bins (as is the custom in Paris). Short notes, ranging from the highly personal to the simply friendly, were attached to each rose. Motria Kuzycz, a member of the Museum Board's Special Events Committee, sold the roses to anyone who wanted to "send a note" to another person at the event. The roses were delivered anonymously, providing great entertainment as the recipients often wondered who the sender was …?
Another highlight of the Valentine Soirée was the silent auction, with guests bidding enthusiastically on an array of items: paintings, prints, jewelry, a fox hat and stole, vintage silk scarves, Baccarat crystal candlesticks, an evening purse, a "gentleman's box" filled with finery for men, dinner at an exclusive restaurant, and more.
Throughout the evening, volunteers Iryna Skulska and Luba Firchuk applied their energies to selling raffle tickets for a wine basket, a liquor basket, and a perfume basket. Like the silent auction and the entire evening, the raffle was a resounding success!
The Valentine Soirée was organized by the Museum Board's Special Events Committee: Oksana Trytjak and Olya Stawnychy (co-chairs), Motria Kuzycz, Daria Mehrle, Christine Melnyk, and Christine Samilenko. The committee worked closely with the Museum's staff and administration and were assisted greatly by Alex Neprel and his crew.
The evening was generously sponsored by Mykola Darmochwal and Zoriana Haftkowycz, Myron and Olha Hnateyko, Stefan and Sviatoslava Kaczaraj, Dr. Ihor and Alexandra Sawczuk, Dr. Yaroslaw and Olya Stawnychy, Dr. Yurij and Oksana Trytjak, and Olia Zarycky. All proceeds benefit The Ukrainian Museum.
The Museum went to the Fair
At this year's dynamic College Art Association (CAA) Book and Trade Fair (February 14-16), a major component of the annual CAA Conference, The Ukrainian Museum partnered with Rodovid Press of Kyiv to introduce exhibition catalogues and other publications to conference attendees. The shared display included an impressive array of publications of particular interest to the audience of artists, art historians, educators, students, and administrators, numbering in the thousands. This was the Museum's first time taking part in this highly respected and well-attended event.
The Museum's participation had been proposed by its Program Committee, whose members organized and manned the booth at the Book Fair with the help of Museum Board members and staff. Visitors to the table were given a brochure of the Museum's catalogues along with other printed materials promoting the Museum's programs. Throughout the three days of the Fair, Museum representatives were approached by many interested scholars, including some who were unfamiliar with but intrigued by the notion of a distinct Ukrainian identity in the arts. Traveling from all parts of the country, many of the visitors were pleasantly surprised to learn of the existence of our Museum. Quite a few of the visitors stopped by expressly to share their pride in their Ukrainian heritage.
Adding dimension to the Museum's presence at the Fair was a Friday-afternoon book signing with Professor Myroslava Mudrak, author of the catalogue Borys Kosarev: Modernist Kharkiv, 1915-1931, which had accompanied the Museum's 2011 exhibition of the same name.
Among the many interesting contacts the Museum representatives made at the CAA Book Fair was Professor Patricia Olynyk, director of the Graduate School of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University (St. Louis, Missouri), who we learned is of Ukrainian Canadian origin. In addition to meeting and speaking with scholars, Museum representatives made contact with a variety of book distributors and publishers of books and magazines.
The CAA Book and Trade Fair offered an exemplary opportunity for the Museum to further its mission to educate the public about Ukrainian culture. The exposure to the extensive yet targeted audience at the CAA Conference was invaluable. The Museum looks forward to its future participation in this event, which rotates annually among New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
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