The Imaginative World of Heorhii Narbut and The Making of A Brand
@ Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art
2320 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
On view through Tuesday, December 15th
For tickets to the Nov 7 in-person Opening Preview, visit uima-chicago.org
The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (UIMA) presents “The Imaginative World of Heorhii Narbut and the Making of a Brand,” a new virtual exhibition curated by Myroslava M. Mudrak, Professor Emerita of Art History at Ohio State University, Nov. 7–Dec. 15. In addition to the work of Narbut, known for designing key elements of Ukraine’s national identity (including currency and postage stamps), the exhibit will feature works by Narbut’s followers from the 1920s and 1930s, Ukrainian artists Oleh Tistol, Mykola Matsenko and other contemporary voices. The virtual exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information visit uima-chicago.org. This exhibition is made possible by a grant from the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.
2020 marks 100 years since the passing of the brilliant graphic designer of Ukrainian modernism Heorhii Narbut (1886–1920), yet he is still called “the founder of the Ukrainian brand.” In 1918, just two years before his passing, Narbut was entrusted with the historical mission: after the proclamation of the independent Ukrainian National Republic, he designed Ukrainian currency, the country’s coat of arms, typefaces, stamps, and logotypes for ministries and institutions, including the stamp of the Ukrainian Academy of Art (after helping to establish it). Narbut’s designs influenced the entire 20th century and continue to be utilized to this day. The students in his workshops and the artists who followed him in various decades continued his style, debated and came up with an artistic presentation of their own design. The exhibition also encompasses the 2020 brand UkraineNOW, created 100 years after his death.
“The Imaginative World of Heorhii Narbut and the Making of a Brand” virtual exhibition is composed of four sections:
Inspired by native Baroque architectural detailing and the floriated design of Cossack clothing textiles, Narbut sought to heroicize the era of the Cossacks while modernizing and Westernizing Ukraine’s visual world. From 1917–1920, his style was embraced by those who, by virtue of the political circumstances and the onslaught of Bolshevik communism in Ukraine, found themselves outside of Ukraine’s borders.
· Narbut’s Influence in the 20s and 30s
The 1920s proved to be the most prolific in Ukrainian-language book production, and many of the beautifully designed book covers bear all the hallmarks of the Narbutian style. This is a style that was able to flourish after Narbut’s death, despite Stalinist repressions, and in many cases served as a signal of the “Ukrainianness” of a publishing project. For the generation of Ukrainian immigrants who are making their home in Europe, Canada and American, the Ukrainian brand is widely recognized for its purpose of unifying a nation of people scattered around the globe.
· Tistol, Matsenko, and New Wave artists of the 80s and 90s
As part of the New Wave in contemporary painting, the work of Tistol and Matsenko, both born in 1960, represents some of the most compelling aspects of Ukrainian art. Theirs—combined with other artists including Holosii, Raievsky, Roitburd, Savadov, and Senchenko—reflect a new generation of Ukrainian artists seeking to find their place within the trajectory of Ukraine’s art historical currents towards the end of the 20th century. Many of these artists co-opted Baroque qualities to work through the issues of belonging and not-belonging, of national identity, and of national branding. Raised during the height of Soviet propaganda and influenced by it as children, they saw through the myths and the artifice of Soviet rhetorical tautologies, and resurrected (sometimes in a grotesque manner) the robust forms of the Ukrainian Baroque, its magnanimity of expression, its colorfulness, and its exaggerations, to create a body of work that has publicly been identified as “neo-Baroque.”
· Contemporary voices
Today, yet another generation of Ukrainian designers is seeking to find a brand design style for the post-Soviet, post-Maidan Ukraine. This generation, represented by advertising companies such as Banda Agency, is proving to be consistent in its unbounded enthusiasm and potential. Because its creators were raised in the post-Soviet era and actively participated in the Maidan revolution, their branding product presents a joyful reflection of their own hopes for the future of Ukraine as a fully integrated Western state. Significantly, they maintain a continuity with Narbut’s vision, effectively extending Ukraine’s visual existence more than a century into the past. Perhaps, in this next round of branding, the aims that Narbut epitomized will finally be fulfilled once and for all.
There will be a socially distanced in-person ticketed Opening Preview featuring the director of Rodovid Press, Lidia Lykhach, a leading figure in the contemporary Ukrainian art world, Saturday, Nov. 7. Lykhach has raised the profile of Ukrainian art, especially how it is presented in the U.S. and Europe. The opening preview will also feature a film by Nadia Parfan on Narbut and “branding,” featuring contemporary Ukrainian designers. Screenings of the 40-minute film will take place at 2 and 4 p.m. Tickets to the Opening Preview are $20 and include a free copy of the exhibition catalog and light refreshments. UIMA allows for a capacity of 30. Masks must be worn to attend the opening.
For tickets to the Opening Preview, visit uima-chicago.org.
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