This exhibition showcases the work of three leading modern artists from Ukraine who produced work during an astonishing period of the country’s cultural renaissance in the early twentieth century: Alexander Archipenko (1887–1964), Oleksandr Bohomazov (1880–1930), and Vasyl Yermilov (1894–1968). Modern and cosmopolitan by nature, their art also addresses the issues of national cultural identity at a time when their compatriots were trying to establish an independent Ukrainian state. The strikingly different fates of the three artists demonstrate the tectonic shifts and upheavals that their country underwent in the first half of the twentieth century. Their work—connected with Cubism, Futurism, Abstractionism, and Constructivism—reflects the stylistic diversity of the avant-garde landscape in Ukraine at that time.
The Juncture: Ukrainian Artists in Search of Modernity and Identity is organized by guest curator Konstantin Akinsha. In 2022, Akinsha developed the traveling European exhibition In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s, which offers a panoramic view of Modernism in the region and provides an opportunity for museums in Europe to support the safekeeping of works from Ukrainian museums endangered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Building on this project, the Mead’s exhibition pulls from collections that are predominantly in the United States and focuses exclusively on the work of Archipenko, Bohomazov, and Yermilov. The Juncture delves into their roles as exceptional artistic innovators, inviting American audiences to explore and enjoy their rare works.
This will be the first showcase of Modern Ukrainian art organized in North America since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. Fighting not only for their territory, but also for their cultural identity, the people of Ukraine have demonstrated that the country’s history and ideas are crucial to its survival. Under these circumstances, the study, preservation and celebration of Ukraine’s artistic heritage has been given a new urgency.
Focusing on a pivotal time in the history of Ukrainian art, the Mead’s project brings into focus the perpetuity of colonial narratives which have often led to art produced in the region as being perceived through a Russian cultural framework. By considering the art of Archipenko, Bohomazov, and Yermilov in its Ukrainian context, the exhibition tackles the issue of cultural identity and the relationship between the national and the global within the Modernist movement.