The Ukrainian Museum presenting Yelena Yemchuk's first large-scale exhibition

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The Ukrainian Museum presenting Yelena Yemchuk's first large-scale exhibition
Yelena Yemchuk Still Life Kuyalink, Odesa, 2015. Ink jet print.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Ukrainian Museum is pleased to present the first large-scale exhibition of work by artist Yelena Yemchuk, and the debut of a haunting new short film shot in the Carpathian Mountains of her native Ukraine. The exhibition brings the modalities of life in Ukraine into focus, and broadens our understanding of this vivid and complex part of the world. It opened on 20th January and will continue until 16th April 2023.

From teenagers on the Black Sea to a pagan-rooted festival, Yemchuk’s individual stories are positioned as driving narratives within her compositions. At first glance, her works demonstrate specific decisive moments, with the surrounding stories remaining elusive to the viewer. Seen together, they weave a compelling and moving visual story.

As a child growing up in Kyiv, Yelena Yemchuk was fascinated by the reputation of Odesa as a place of freedom during Soviet times. The city seemed full of contradictions — “acceptance but also danger. A place of jokes and characters, populated by outlaws and intellectuals.” She first visited Odesa in 2003 and returned in 2015 to begin to photograph the city and its inhabitants over a period of four years.

Yemchuk began photographing her series Odesa as a visual ode to Ukraine’s third largest city, taking pictures of sixteen and seventeen year-old boys and girls at the Odesa Military Academy. The previous year, Russia had invaded and annexed Crimea, and fighting had broken out on Ukraine’s eastern border. Originally intending to document the faces of the children going to war, Yemchuk became aware of the importance of giving their lives more context, she therefore began to photograph the city alongside its inhabitants.

Adding to the photographic images is Malanka, Yemchuk’s haunting new short film. Filmed in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains, the hypnotic film is part science fiction, part emotional mystery. As with all Yemchuk’s work, Malanka abounds with stirring original images that linger in the memory and the heart long after the film ends. Starring Anna Domoshyana and Ebon Moss-Bachrach, we follow the lead characters through villages in a rural countryside that appears to be from an unfamiliar age and dimension – time and space are intangible in the film’s strange and disquieting world.

Peter Doroshenko, The Ukrainian Museum Director, states: “With this seminal exhibition and world premier film, Yelena Yemchuk highlights various nuances in Ukrainian life that are unknown to most. The people, locations, and traditions exist, Yemchuk has stoically documented their lives for us to experience.”

Born in Kyiv, Yelena Yemchuk immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was 11. She became interested in photography when her father gave her a 35mm Minolta camera for her fourteenth birthday; she went on to study at both the Parsons School of Design in New York and the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California. Recognized for her surrealistic whimsy and dark romanticism, Yemchuk has exhibited at museums and galleries worldwide. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, Another Magazine, and Italian, British, and Japanese Vogue, among others.

Yelena Yemchuk's output as a visual artist is immediately recognizable, regardless of medium. Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, Yelena immigrated to the United States with her parents when she was eleven. Yelena became interested in photography when her father gave her a 35mm Minolta camera for her fourteenth birthday.

She went on to study art at Parsons in New York and photography at Art Center in Pasadena. Yemchuk has exhibited paintings, films and photography at galleries and museums worldwide. She has shot for The New Yorker, New York Times, Another, ID, Vogue, and others.

Yemchuk released her first book Gidropark, published by Damiani in April 2011, followed by Anna Maria, published by United Vagabonds in September 2017. Yemchuk had her first institutional debut with her project Mabel, Betty & Bette, a photography and video work at the Dallas Contemporary Museum. A monograph with the same title was released by Kominek Books in March 2021. Her newest book Odesa is to be released in May 2022, by Gost Books.

The Ukrainian Museum located in New York’s East Village is the largest art institution outside of Ukraine that has been highlighting Ukrainian art and culture for the past 46 years. Seminal exhibitions have included Alexander Archipenko: Vision and Continuity, along with Staging the Ukrainian Avant-Garde of the 1910s and 1920s. The museum holds over 10,000 art works in its collection including artists, Alexander Archipenko, David Burliuk, Sonia Delaunay, and Alexandra Exter.

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