Exhibition of artwork from Kyiv, Ukraine debuts in Coral Gables

The Coral Gables Museum will be the first stop of a traveling exhibition titled “Painting in Excess: Kyiv’s Art Revival, 1985 – 1993,” a series of Ukrainian avant-garde works revealing freedom during the transitional time when Ukraine came out from under the rule of the former Soviet Union. The current war in Ukraine adds a unique value to these works as they are expressions of a tumultuous time that nurtured the country’s independence.

The exhibition was on display at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University in New Jersey earlier this year, but many works from Ukrainian collections could not be returned because of the war. It comes to the Coral Gables Museum thanks to a grant from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. An opening reception event will be held on Wednesday, May 18, and the exhibition will be on view from May 19 through October 30, 2022.  

The exhibition studies inventive new art styles by non-conformist Ukrainian artists reacting to the difficult period of perestroika (restructuring) before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Their artwork went against the style of Socialist Realism that the Soviet government was imposing on artists at the time. More than 60 works of art, all by artists from Kyiv, are striking in color and size as they embrace a rediscovered history with the birth of independence following economic scarcity and ecological calamity. Radical changes had taken hold of the region in addition to the devastation caused by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster, meaning artists could at last express themselves more freely in superfluous artistry.

“The exhibition showcases Ukraine’s resilience and determination through dramatic visualizations of freedom and independence,” Coral Gables Museum’s Chief Curator Yuni Villalonga said. “Considering recent events, it’s a powerful, intimate, and emotional window into the hearts of Ukrainians.”

While the exhibition captures a chaotic period, the artists took daring and completely novel approaches to their creations which vary in scale including wall-sized pieces. The international collection in “Painting in Excess” unveils a period of enlightenment and education explored by leading and well-known Ukrainian artists.

“This exhibition provides an important opportunity to discuss the political and cultural background of Ukraine in relation to the current war. These works show the country’s indomitable spirit and resistance in the face of foreign occupation,” Coral Gables Museum’s Executive Director Elvis Fuentes said.

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