How Freedom Shaped Ukrainian Art by B. David Zarley

With Reality Check, exhibition curator and SAIC lecturer Adrienne Kochman seeks to explore the effect a quarter century of Ukrainian independence has had on artists both from the country and its wider diaspora. On display at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village, of course) in celebration of the 25th anniversary of Ukrainian independence, the works, including sculptures, paintings, and installations, demonstrate the dramatic impact of the nation’s sovereignty on the work of both its native born and émigré artist communities.

The immigrants who fled the Soviet Union were for the most part prohibited from returning to their home country. In their new homes, many were raised in communities that “worked very actively to keep Ukrainian culture and tradition alive,” Kochman says. “Including language, schooling, music, a lot of really cultural endeavors. Because those were the aspects of Ukrainian culture that were Sovietized and Russified, were forcibly changed.”

The 25th anniversary of Ukrainian Independence is a tense one; Reality Check is opening in a world wherein a great swath of the country have been invaded, and the dormant sabres of the Cold War are beginning to rattle again. Signs in the windows of the Ukrainian businesses around the UIMA, blue and yellow and declaring a stand for a united and free country, are a reminder of how fragile the freedom that inspired Reality Check can be; the art itself, a reminder of how important it is.