Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Max and Julia Voloshyn, the husband-and-wife co-founders of Kyiv’s Voloshyn Gallery, have been working tirelessly in exile and participating in fairs throughout Europe and the US. This month, in addition to showing at Art Brussels (20-23 April), they will be presenting works by two Ukrainian artists on their stand at Expo Chicago. “We must continue our work,” the dealers say. “The art scene is another front on which we are fighting.”
At Expo, the Voloshyns will present works by the conceptual artist Mykola Ridnyi and the painter Oleksiy Sai that reflect the trauma of Russia’s invasion in very different ways. The concrete sculptures in Ridnyi’s Shelter series (2012-13) are based on the shapes of Soviet-era bomb shelters found throughout Ukraine, which were abandoned or repurposed in the years after the end of the Cold War, only to be used again after Russia’s invasion of Crimea in 2014 and again since last year’s invasion. Sai’s Bombed series (2020), meanwhile, consists of earlier canvases that the artist scrubs, sands and drills holes into, turning them into abstract compositions that resemble aerial views of crater-scored landscapes criss-crossed by trenches.
In addition to their international fair itinerary, the Voloshyns are also reopening their space in Kyiv after closing it at the onset of the invasion. “This is our contribution not only to the future of the culture of independent Ukraine, but also a significant contribution to the victory itself,” the dealers say. “We need to work for our people.”
Ridnyi and Sai’s works are likely to find a receptive audience in Chicago: more than 50,000 people in the city claim Ukrainian heritage, giving it the second-largest concentration of Ukrainian Americans after New York. It is also home to the Ukrainian National Museum and the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, both located in the Ukrainian Village neighbourhood, making it a hub for Ukrainian cultural activity.