November 24, 2021

Ukrainian Artists are Focus of Zimmerli Exhibit

“GARDENS OLD AND NEW”: This work by Arsen Savadov and Georgii Senchenko is part of “Painting in Excess: Kyiv’s Art Revival, 1985–1993,” on view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University through March 13, 2022.

The exhibition “Painting in Excess: Kyiv’s Art Revival, 1985–1993” explores the inventive new art styles by Ukrainian artists responding to a trying transitional period of perestroika (restructuring) during the collapse of the Soviet Union. On view at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University through March 13, 2022, the exhibition highlights an explosion of styles, rediscovered histories, and newly found freedoms that blossomed against economic scarcity and ecological calamity, creating an effect of baroque excess.

Organized by guest research curator Olena Martynyuk, Ph.D. with assistance from Julia Tulovsky, Ph.D., the Zimmerli’s curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art, “Painting in Excess: Kyiv’s Art Revival, 1985-1993” is accompanied by a catalogue of the same title, co-published with Rutgers University Press.

An in-person exhibition reception is scheduled for February 26, 2022, with performances of Ukrainian musical pieces composed in the 1980s and early 1990s, recreating the cultural atmosphere of the time.

“This exhibition captures and celebrates a moment of remarkable transformation in the art scene in late-Soviet Kyiv,” said Martynyuk. “With the lingering devastation of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe and imminent collapse of the Soviet Union, Kyiv was undergoing radical changes. Emerging Ukrainian art became a powerful agent in this transformation of the city from the provincial center of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic into a cultural capital.”

Excessive in its expressive manner and color, Kyivan painting of the late 1980s and early 1990s produced a new quality in art, no longer defined by the dichotomy of official and unofficial art during the Soviet era (1922-1991). Such daring art had not been publicly visible since the avant-garde of the early 20th century. With some ideological restrictions lifted, artists were flooded with information on Western theories, from postmodernism to formalist abstraction.

Simultaneously, Ukrainian artists discovered chapters of local history that had been suppressed or deleted, as well as their decades-long exclusion from the global library of art. Thus, allusions to antique ruins and other spoils of Western culture abound in Ukrainian painting. Oozing symbolic meaning, large-scale canvases reflect their transitional moment, reconsidering the past and defining the future.

“Painting in Excess” represents the culmination of an important international collaboration that brings together more than 60 works of art, the majority of which have never been exhibited in the United States. A selection of paintings and works on paper is drawn primarily from the Zimmerli’s Norton and Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union, supplemented by loans from the Abramovych Foundation, and a group of Ukrainian art collectors, facilitated by support from Tymofieyev Foundation. In addition, this is a rare opportunity to exhibit these 33 artists together, many of whom are the most well-known of their generation in Ukraine.

Admission is free to the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. The museum is located at 71 Hamilton Street in New Brunswick.

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