Letter from Chicago

October 22nd, 2013  |  Published in October 2013

Letter from Chicago 

By Cynthia Kukla

• Chicago, City of Big Shoulders, is home to numerous gems of specialized art museums beyond the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art. The Polish Museum of Art, Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, National Museum of Mexican Art, The Arts Club of Chicago, DePaul Art Museum, Loyola University Museum of Art, the Smart Museum, Oriental Institute and Renaissance Society, all at the University of Chicago, Spertus Institute, Dusable Museum and National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum are among the museums in Chicago. In surrounding communities, even more museums and art centers also offer up often surprising and rich gems of exhibitions.

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art has two back-to-back exhibitions that should inspire you to put the UIMA on your art tour list in the future. First, “Chicago’s Bauhaus Legacy,” from August 9 – September 29, showcased art and design by students of Moholy-Nagy’s schools from 1937-1955: the New Bauhaus, School of Design in Chicago and Institute of Design – with special emphasis on the Foundation Course exercises. In addition, life work of both teachers and students from 1937 to the present was included in the exhibition.

UIMA states: “In 1937 the Chicago Association of Art and Industry invited László Moholy-Nagy to head what was to be called the New Bauhaus, four years after the Bauhaus in Berlin was dissolved in 1933 under National Socialist pressure. László Moholy-Nagy had been a Bauhaus Master from 1923-1928 in Weimar and Dessau. His teaching as well as his own diverse creative work, were characterized by a unique innovative and experimental approach to the arts.”

The rich and highly-instructive exhibit represented more than sixty individuals, the vast majority of the exhibit was work that has never before been seen before. Material has been provided through the generous loans from private collections, in addition to work from the UIMA permanent collection and the Bauhaus Chicago Committee Archive & Collection. It would be difficult not to acknowledge the profound impact the Bauhaus movement had on contemporary art and architecture. A watercolor and a lithograph from László Moholy-Nagy was included in the exhibit as was art work by award-winning Chicago architect Stanley Tigerman.

I asked David Sokol, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Illinois-Chicago what he felt was the impact of this exhibition and he stated “The influence of the Institute of Design extended not only to the direct teaching and art of these design and architecture faculty, but continued through their students who went on to teach and make their own art work in Chicago and throughout the country. A dozen of the artists in the exhibition became faculty in the Schools of Art, Design, and Architecture at University of Illinois-Chicago. They continued the legacy of the Bauhaus for future generations to the present.” This exhibit was organized in partnership with T. Paul Young and the Bauhaus Chicago committee NFP.

The current exhibition, “Artists Respond to Genocide” opened October 4 and continues through December 1, 2013. It was planned in honor of the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor-Famine-Genocide of 1932-1933 in Ukraine. The UIMA states” The exhibition addresses genocides of the world, the deliberate massacre of millions of people targeted on the basis of group membership – such as ethnic, national, cultural, and religious. In Soviet Ukraine, Stalin and his government staged an artificial famine to eradicate Ukraine’s population, resulting in seven to ten million deaths. Such acts of horror are tragically prevalent in the 20th century – Armenia, Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, for example – and continue to be so today.”

The artists participating in this sober exhibition have addressed this theme from a number of different perspectives and cultural contexts, such as – the legacy of the Holodomor on second and third generation Ukrainian-Americans; the universal fight for social justice as a preventative measure against genocide; the personal impact on family and survival.
Highlights include official competition designs by the sculptor/architect team of Evhen Prokopov and Oreste Baranyk, and the final stage model of the winning Holodomor Memorial Monument in Washington D.C., by Larysa Kurylas. It is scheduled for installation in 2014. This exhibition features the work of 20 local, national, and international artists, including: Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak, Harold L. Cohen, Klaus Eyting, Christine Forni, Larysa Kurylas, Jason LaMantia, Arthur Lerner, Jackie Moses, Bonnie Peterson, Klaus Pinter, Mary Porterfield, Dominic Sansone, Susanne Slavick, Marzena Ziejka, Eden Unluata, Erika Uzmann, Mandy Cano Villalobos and Pat Zalisko.

UIMA is located at 2320 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL, (773) 227-5522. It is in the heart of Ukrainian Village in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood; its minimalist façade was designed by noted local architect Stanley Tigerman. The museum regularly displays art work from its permanent collection, with works by such famous Ukrainian artists such as Alexander Archipenko, and Soviet era Ukrainian Non-Conformists, as well as many artists of Ukrainian descent. Works in the permanent collection by a roster of American and European artists like, Jerzy Nowosielski, Jules Olitski, Patrick Caulfield, Elisabeth Frink, Mary Fedden, are also featured, as well as Chicago artists Richard Hunt, Thomas Kapsalis, Michiko Itatani and others.


Cynthia Kukla is a painter living in Illinois who also writes about art.

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