20 January – 15 April 2023
The Lemko artist Nikifor is considered one of the world’s finest outsider artists of his time. Born with a hearing and speech impediment and orphaned during World War I, Nikifor was unable to communicate with the people around him. He was initially treated like a misfit and ridiculed by the people of his hometown, Krynica. For most of his life, he found himself isolated both physically and emotionally. Art became an outlet, a focus for his life.
The topics of Nikifor’s art include self-portraits and panoramas of Krynica, with its spas and Orthodox and Catholic churches. Throughout his vast body of drawings, Nikifor interweaves classic landscapes and memories. Each drawing offers a kaleidoscope of both the familiar and the unfamiliar. Meticulous and lovingly rendered, his drawings range from those with the tightly wound tension of horror vacui, where absolutely no space on the paper is without the hash mark of a pencil, to others that breathe with open space and create a different type of tension, leading to the question of what is missing. It is a unique and powerful approach to landscape imagery. Unmarked open areas appear to exert pressure on the forms found populating the page, as if a strong gust of wind or invisible field is in fact occupying space, unseen to the viewer.
Nikifor (born Epifanii Drovniak, 1895–1968) gifted us with a visual index of a lifetime’s worth of visual information, regurgitated and reassembled in countless ways. Each drawing is a window offering a deeply internal vortex of forms and articulations rendered in watercolor and colored pencils. For Nikifor, who was non-verbal, art-making was his communication.
The exhibition at The Ukrainian Museum includes 135 works from its collection. Curated by Myroslava Mudrak, professor emerita of art history at The Ohio State University, the exhibition will be accompanied by a major catalogue to be published by Rodovid Press in Kyiv.
Nikifor is funded in part by:
Prof. Zirka Voronka in memory of husband Prof. Roman Voronka