Eyes on Ukraine: Five Contemporary Ukrainian Photographers


Through May 11, 2019
Special talk with co-curator, Roberto Muffoletto, May 8th, 5:30-7:30pm

With the current political interest in Ukraine, CEPA Gallery is proud to present the VASA curated exhibition Eyes on Ukraine: Five Contemporary Ukrainian Photographers. This exhibition covers a period of more than 25 years and features photographers from different parts of Ukraine and multiple generations.

VASA, an online center for media studies, created the current traveling exhibition Eyes on Ukraine: Five Contemporary Ukrainian Photographers from its commitment to provide Ukrainian photographers and film makers a platform for their voice. Over the last 4 years, VASA exhibited the work of photographers associated with the Kharkiv School of Photography (4 exhibitions tracing the 1970-80 until current time), Crimea (images and film), Ukraine Project, the war in the Ukraine, and a number of individual artists presented in the VASA Front Page Project. All of the exhibitions, essays and films have been archived on the VASA platform (vasa-project.com).

In the 1970s and 1980s, under strict state censorship, photographers mainly worked underground, and it was only after 1990 that artists emerged free from soviet ideological constraints. Twenty-eight years later Ukraine photographers are experiencing the freedom won by the struggles of previous generations. The work presented here by five Ukrainian artists may be best understood as a rich example of that transition from censorship to freedom.

From direct social reportage on the toil of Donbas miners, to complex techniques using found material, from elaborated quasi beach photos, to reflections on the annexation of Crimea, the selection showcases the diversity of themes and approaches that are characteristic for the art of photography in the country.

For more information on the project:  VASA video

The photographers:

Igor Chekachkov (b. 1989) is a representative of the younger generation artists, but since 2013 he has been actively exhibiting his work both in Ukraine and abroad. The communist ideology has always been the critical focus of Kharkiv photographers. Chekachkov’s 2013 – 2015 Veterans project shows World War II survivors on their annual V-Day gatherings. Decorated with all possible awards, not necessarily achieved for combat action, with Lenin’s monument (now destroyed) in the background, some dignified, some just simply pathetic, they are a living representation of the country’s Soviet past.

Alexander Chekmenev – The Donbas Miners exhibition by this Ukrainian documentary photographer (b. 1969) is dedicated to the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, the part of the country that the artist comes from and knows best. It comprises work from two decades, 1993 to 2014, the beginning of the war conflict with Russia. The Donbas region is primarily a mining and industrial area. Life has been more difficult for the people of the Donbas region since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The photographs tell the story of people in this mostly illegal and dangerous spine-breaking manual labor.  

Vitaly Fomenko (b. 1983) lives in Sevastopol, which provides him a unique opportunity to witness the life in Crimea after the annexation. Fomenko’s The Honor Roll (2015) is in fact a series of reproductions of found material: it shows half-ruined discarded photographs that had belonged to a Ukrainian military cantonment and were ditched after the place was ceded to Russian troops without a fight. The portraits in this expressive Fomenko’s work appear like zombie phantoms, a spiritual visitation of the seemingly bloodless war.

Eugeny Kom (b. 1956) has lived in Zaporizhia since 1977, but he is still registered in Crimea, where his mother lives. His Crimean registration allows him to visit the peninsula regularly, and the artists’ portfolio contains images of both pre- and post-annexation time. The presented selection comes from Eugeny Kom’s series The Rest Zone, Adagio, Naked And Comical, The Beach Mat, Theater of The Absurd taken all over the Crimean seashore from west to east and covering the period of 2004 – 2016. Kom’s merciless reportage approach transforms what could otherwise look like mundane beach photography into a powerful tool anatomizing the resorts’ poor infrastructure, its inadequate facilities and the vacationist’s habitual behavior, revealing the deeply ingrained Soviet spirit and dismal atmosphere of the place.

 

Lana Yankovska (b. 1981) started studying photography in 2012. In her Drowned Memories (2012) Lana Yankovska uses the “overlays” technique based on found material – scanned negatives shot by the artist’s grandfather. The grandfather’s amateur images portray the artist’s mother and uncle as children, the sites of her native Lviv, the places where she lived as a child, the family history in general. To create an image of the flow of time burying one’s past, Yankovska digitally merges “found memories” with photos of water.


Curators:

Roberto Muffoletto
Roberto Muffoletto Founder and past director for CEPA Gallery (USA) is currently the director of VASA, an online center for media studies (http://vasa-project.com). He is past editor of Camera Lucida, a journal on the criticism of photography; Frame|Work, published by the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies. He earned a MFA in Photographic Studies from the State University of New York – Buffalo and a PhD. From the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Roberto’s photographs are in the collection of the Burchfield Penney Art Center (Buffalo) and the Visual Studies workshop, Rochester, New York.  He has published three books on his photographic work and has exhibited in Europe and North America.

Igor Manko
Born in 1962, Poltava, Ukraine; lives in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Photographer and head curator at VASA Exhibitions (vasa-project.com). Igor Manko has been engaged in art photography since 1982. In mid-1980s he joined the wide-known Kharkiv School of Photography and has been an active participant of Ukraine’s art photography scene ever since. In 2013 he joined the VASA Project curatorial team and is a head curator for VASA now. Igor Manko has exhibited his work extensively both in Ukraine and internationally. His photos are kept in private collections and galleries. Igor has curated a number of exhibitions in Ukraine. As a VASA curator he made two major projects Kharkiv School of Photography: Soviet Censorship to New Aesthetics (vasa-project.com/gallery/ukraine-1/) and Crimea: A No Man’s Land  http://vasa-project.com/gallery/crimea/index.php). Igor is the author of several essays on photography in Ukraine.

 

 

 


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