Art at the Institute is pleased to present an exhibition of selected paintings and drawings by the late Valeriy Hnatenko (1947–1987). Hnatenko is recognized as an artist’s artist whose highly personal paintings and drawings reflected his commitment to naturalism as a subject, his complex involvement with the art of the past, topical cultural and humanistic concerns, and with his own Ukrainian identity. Opening reception with a presentation by Stefania Hnatenko took place on Friday, February 23, 2018 from 6:00 to 8:00 PM.
At a time when it was unfashionable, painter, draftsman, art restorer and teacher, Hnatenko persisted in being a portraitist, landscape and still-life painter. While fully engrossed in the Lviv art and cultural scene of the 1970s and 80s and connected with its innovators, Hnatenko remained steadfast in his choice of style and subject matter, unswayed by Western art world tenets that favored abstraction and minimalism. He made representative work — astutely observing that which was immediate and dear to him — that challenged and pleased him, regardless of what anyone thought.
While in his prime as an artist, husband and father, Hnatenko’s core being was marred by his misdiagnosed illness to which he eventually succumbed. When Soviet authorities again began intimidating and tormenting Ukraine’s cultural and intellectual leaders in the early 1970s, the artist found himself in a position to testify against his wife and colleagues for alleged violations against the state. As he refused to do so, he was deprived of his teaching and professional activities.
Hnatenko treated his art as a determined meditation on the ultimate meaning of human existence. He took seriously the act of concentrating on and thinking about all things in themselves and in relation to each other in order to become “one who could see.” Perhaps, he might agree, the message is more simple-minded than that — it is about looking long and thinking hard about the gift of the world.
Exhibition continues through March 14, 2018.