20.01.2023 - 16.04.2023 Events, Visual Arts

Nikifor at The Ukrainian Museum

January 20-April 16, 2023
The Ukrainian Museum
222 E 6th St
New York, NY 10003

Opening Reception: Thursday, January 19 at 6-8pm ET

Exhibition Walkthrough with Curator Myroslava Mudrak: Sunday, January 22 at 1pm ET
Lecture on the Agency of Nikifor’s Art and Life: Sunday, March 5 at 2pm ET
in conjunction with the Outsider Art Fair, NYC

The Ukrainian Museum announces an upcoming new exhibition featuring the 147 works by Lemko outsider artist Nikifor.

Born with a hearing and speech impediment and orphaned during World War I, Nikifor (1895–1968) was unable to communicate with the people around him. He was initially treated like a misfit and ridiculed by the people of his hometown, Krynica, Poland. “For most of his life,” says guest curator Myroslava Mudrak, professor emerita of art history at The Ohio State University, “he found himself isolated both physically and emotionally. Art became an outlet, a focus for his life.” The topics of Nikifor’s art include self-portraits and panoramas of Krynica, with its spas and Orthodox and Catholic churches. Throughout his vast body of drawings, Nikifor interweaves classic landscapes and memories. Each drawing offers a kaleidoscope of both the familiar and the unfamiliar. Meticulous and lovingly rendered, his drawings range from those with the tightly wound tension of horror vacui, where absolutely no space on the paper is without the hash mark of a pencil, to others that breathe with open space and create a different type of tension, leading to the question of what is missing. It is a unique and powerful approach to landscape imagery. Unmarked open areas appear to exert pressure on the forms found populating the page, as if a strong gust of wind or invisible field is in fact occupying space, unseen to the viewer.

Krystyna Feldman in Krzysztof Krauze movie My Nikifor, photo: Best Film. Image source: Culture.pl

Nikifor (born Epifanii Drovniak, Lemko on his mother’s side, and Polish on his father’s side – legend has it that his father was also a recognized painter who went by the name of “T”) gifted us with a visual index of a lifetime’s worth of visual information, regurgitated and reassembled in countless ways. “Each drawing is a window offering a deeply internal vortex of forms and articulations rendered in watercolor, crayons, and colored pencils,” explains Peter Doroshenko, Director of The Ukrainian Museum. “For Nikifor, who was non-verbal, art-making was his communication.”

Beginning with a 1932 exhibition in Paris, Nikifor’s art was displayed widely across Europe, as well as in the U.S., Brazil, and Israel. For a long time he used no surname at all. For the first exhibition of his works, mounted in Warsaw at the Polish Architects’ Association (SARP), posters were printed identifying him as “Jan Nikifor”. His first exhibition in Ukraine took place in Lviv in 1965, three years before his death.

The works on view at The Ukrainian Museum are drawn from the Museum’s collection. Nikifor will be accompanied by a major catalogue to be published by Rodovid Press in Kyiv.

Nikifor and Saints on a Boat n.d., watercolor on paper 9 ½ x 6 ¾ in. (24.1 x 17.1 cm) Vadym Lesych Collection UM 1985_61

About The Ukrainian Museum New York

The Ukrainian Museum located in New York’s East Village is the largest art institution outside of Ukraine that has been highlighting Ukrainian art and culture for the past 46 years. Seminal exhibitions have included Alexander Archipenko: Vision and Continuity, along with Staging the Ukrainian Avant-Garde of the 1910s and 1920s. The museum holds over 10,000 art works in its collection including artists, Alexander Archipenko, David Burliuk, Sonia Delaunay, and Alexandra Exter.

Lead image: Railroad Station in Nowy Sącz  n.d., watercolor on paper 9 x 12 ½ in. (22.9 x 31.8 cm) Vadym Lesych Collection UM 1985_60.

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