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The Revolution Is Here

By Justin Sondak in Arts & Entertainment on Jan 31, 2006 5:53PM

Ukraine mattresses.JPGThe Ukrainian Museum of Modern Art is displaying a small but important collection of work capturing a sea change of Eastern European democracy. Artists Respond: Ukrainian Art and The Orange Revolution receives its U.S. premiere at this unassuming building in the heart of the Ukrainian Village via The Center for Contemporary Art, Kyiv, Ukraine.

As reports of fraud surfaced during the 2004 Ukrainian election, supporters of opposition candidate Victor Yushenko took to the streets to stage the country’s largest demonstration in living memory, camping out in central Kiev at what would become known as Independence Square. Desperate, President Kutchma backers resorted to poisoning Yushenko, further galvanizing opposition forces and eliciting the world’s sympathy for the orange-clad proletariat.

orange.jpgAs the protests swelled, the Kiev Center opened their studios so that young artists could express the hope, anger and confusion of the moment. This exhibition harnesses the energy of that moment. Most of these artists were born between 1977 and 1986, the youngest are teenagers exhibiting a remarkable sophistication. This post-Soviet generation saw the promise of a free society marred by rampant corruption and organized crime. Their movement’s art is as focused, as gut level as the weeks spent in the trenches. When you’ve seen the footage and heard the story, simple items like the mattresses and egg cartons used for sleeping and standing take on a new resonance. The vocabulary and aesthetics of university and graduate artists we’re so accustomed to in this country are absent here. The work is less formal, at times playful. One artist pays tribute to an injured colleague by toting a phantom scarecrow through the Square. For another, the familiar look of a Soviet era demonstration is turned on its head.

The word ‘revolution’ is a tad overused in this country, so it’s refreshing to see the sincere unbridled energy of a historic movement. That opportunity remains on Chicago Avenue for one more month.

ARTISTS RESPOND: Ukrainian Art and The Orange Revolution continues at the Ukrainian Museum of Modern Art, 2320 W Chicago Ave, through February 28. The museum is open Wednesdays-Sundays and admission is free. More information at

Crowd image is part of a fine photo essay at this site.