More than one hundred people attended the opening reception of the 2013 Summer Art Exhibit and Sale at the Ukrainian Institute of America held on June 21, 2013. The exhibit featured contemporary and 20th century art from Ukraine that was on display until September 6, 2013 showcased more than 50 works including oil paintings, mixed media works, photographs and sculpture by Vasyl Bazhaj, Alexis Gritchenko, Ivan Kurach, Temo Svireli and Volodymyr Zhuravel.
Vasyl Bazhaj, born in Lviv in 1950, defined his artistic style in the late 1980s when the reins of government censorship loosened and painting provided him a venue for a furious offensive against the system. He graduated from State Institute of Applied and Decorative Art. He is head of the Conceptual Art Department at the Lviv Union of Artists along with being a member of the board of the Lviv Union of Artists, both located in Lviv, Ukraine where he lives and works.
In the 1980s, when the reins of censorship loosened (the Bolsheviks were persecuting open dissidents but had no energy to look for the “hidden” ones, the “furious youth went on offensive.” I have been gladly following the play of lights at the exhibitions of young artists and have patiently waited for the coming of a master of the highest rank, who was sure to appear in the upsurge of Ukrainian creative activity. Last year, at his personal exhibition in Kyiv, I discovered Vasyl Bazhaj. His large canvases emanated a mighty, gloomy force. His object-less compositions bore the stamp of geological or psychological shifts, struggles and strains. Like hardened lava, the fragments of pictorial forms seem to be thrown upon the canvas after melting in fire and then hardening in sullen rage into cold immobility.
Dmytro Horbachov, Kyiv, Ukraine
For some time after graduating from the Institute, Vasyl Bazhaj worked in one of Lviv’s theaters. This experience freed him from the natural fear of space, liberated his plastic thought, his artistic selection of palette. This experience was decisive in the realization of a new exhibition. The artist built it as an entirety, like a theatrical performance that takes place not only in the three dimensions of space, but also in time. Its dramatic conflict was inherent in the material itself-in the selection and disposition of the exhibits. The mighty artistic temperament sounded in the lower registers of the large canvases, on which monumental architecture continued, developed and concentrated on the intense dynamics of the main movement-struggle. On the other hand, the most subtle nuances of color sounded in diminutive form. Here a single stroke of the brush acquired utmost significance. The artist’s gift of composition was already evident in the exposition and was fully realized in the specific arrangement of each work.
Olena Ripko, Lviv, Ukraine
Alexis Gritchenko (Ukrainian: Оле́кса Гри́щенко) (born in Krolevets, Northern Ukraine, April 2, 1883; died in Vence, France on January 28, 1977) was a Ukrainian painter and art theorist.
Gritchenko studied philology and biology at the universities of Kyiv, St Petersburg and Moscow before turning to art. He studied painting in Moscow and established close ties with the collectors Sergey Shchukin and Ivan Morozov. In 1911, he visited Paris where he became an enthusiast of modern art, especially Cubist painting. After a trip to Italy in 1913-14, he blended with his study of early Italian Renaissance painters, creating a style that brought together the cosmopolitan and urbane with the orthodoxy of the Byzantine legacy of sacred art. Gritchenko devoted his theoretical work to the subject of Byzantine art and its links with modern art, and to an analysis of the formal and stylistic properties of Byzantine painting in terms of modernist tendencies and practice. He published several books and articles, the most important of which were his studies on the icon in relation to Western art, and also took part in contemporary discussions on various aspects of modern art.
After the 1917 revolution, Gritchenko became a professor at the Free Art Studios (Svomas) in Moscow and a member of the Commission for the Preservation of Historic Monuments. In 1919, he was offered the directorship of the Tretyakov Gallery, but decided to leave Russia by way of Crimea to Constantinople, leaving all his paintings and other possessions behind in Moscow. This period marked a distinctive and inspired period of watercolor.
To preserve Gritchenko’s artistic legacy, the Alexis Gritchenko Foundation was formed in New York in 1958. After the foundation was formed, Gritchenko held three more exhibits in New York and Philadelphia, the last in 1967 at the Peter Deitsch Gallery in New York. At the beginning of the sixties it was discovered that his paintings which had been in the collections of the Ukrainian Lviv Museum were destroyed as creations of “bourgeois formalism”, together with works of Alexander Archipenko, Mikhail Boichuk and Heorhiy Narbut. This caused Gritchenko to bequeath a collection of seventy works including oils, watercolors and drawings, to the Alexis Gritchenko Foundation, with the provision that they be transferred someday to the museums of a free Ukraine. The foundation and the collection were held by the Ukrainian Institute of America (UIA).
On March 26, 2006, a ceremony was held to formally transfer the Gritchenko Foundation collection to the National Art Museum of Ukraine. In addition to the 70 works of art, books, catalogues, handwritten notes and memoirs, and other archival material were included. Today, Gritchenko’s art work can be found in various museum and private collections, more than three hundred of them in the United States and Canada.
Well known both in Europe and in the United States, his paintings are found in famous private collections and in museums all over the world. He spent most of his time between his studios of New York City and Milan, Italy. His work is another example of how very modern technique and sensitivity can freely fuse into the rigid rule of the most beautiful Italian pictorial tradition.
A soldier in World War II, he was a faithful interpreter of that tragic period; with gray and somber colors, with sad visions, he portrayed those days with force and meaning.
Temo Svirely, born 1964 in Zhinvali, Republic of Georgia. Graduated from the Zhinvali Art school, the Tbilisi Academy of Fine Arts (1998-1992). Temo is a member of the International Federation of Artist of Russia (from 1993). Member of the International Federation of Artist of Georgia (from 1998). Member of BGart (from 2000). Now artist lives and works in Kiev, Ukraine.
Volodymyr Zhuravel, born 1986 in Kremenchuk, Ukraine. Graduated from National Academy of Fine Art and Arcitecture in Ukraine, Kyiv in 2010. Designed and executed the Medal “ Person of the Year” presented by the Ukrainian Institute of America to Vitali and Volodymyr Klitschko for their boxing achievements. Designed and cast a monument dedicated to A, Kuznetsov which is installed in Kyiv, Ukraine.
“Art at the Institute” is sponsored by the Ukrainian Institute of America.