Konstantin Simun: The Sacred in the Profane

February 21 – June 30, 2019

Presented in partnership with the Fitchburg Art Museum

Konstantin Simun often poses the question “trash or treasure?” when speaking of his sculptures. Simun asks us to see spiritual images in banal plastic vessels such as milk jugs and crates. He accomplishes this through a slight alteration to the original form, a shift in orientation, or the fusing of one object with another. These objects are so ubiquitous and ordinary that we rarely stop to consider their formal qualities, let alone contemplate them as symbolic or transcendent objects. Simun’s fascination with plastic did not diminish over the years, and he continues to create artworks not only from plastic, but also in traditional materials like bronze, silver, and ceramic that replicate the visages that he sees in plastic.

The Sacred in the Profane offers a survey of Simun’s unique capacity to find forms that appear in ancient art and Christian iconography in molded plastic and other consumer objects since his arrival to the United States from Russia in the early 1980s. Viewed within the Museum of Russian Icons, it is possible to contemplate Simun’s exposure to the icon tradition, as well as to consider the way in which Simun’s story of discovery and fascination with plastic parallels the MoRI’s founder and former president of Nypro Plastics Gordon B. Lankton’s connoisseurship of icons.

Simun is known locally for his charming memorial to the Puppeteer Igor Fokin in Harvard Square.  This video shows the process of making the sculpture, and Folkin’s career as a puppeteer.

Jacques’ Menagerie: Hnizdovsky Prints from the Christina and George Gamota Collection

March 16 – July 7, 2019

Presented in Partnership with Ballets Russes Arts Initiative

Born in Ukraine, trained in Poland and Croatia, a refugee to the US who was embraced by American viewers and collectors, Jacques Hnizdovsky (1915-1985) traveled a difficult road through life. His art, however, expressed his capacity for joy, humor, and hope, most often in of animals from the Bronx Zoo, have been widely recognized and beloved for over half a century. This exhibition presents a single collection of Hnizdovsky prints (woodcuts, linocuts, and etchings), as well as one of his paintings, which are rarely seen.

The collection was assembled by a Ukrainian-American family who shared Hnizdovsky’s experience of displacement, hardship, and adaptation in the course and aftermath of World War II, passing through the same refugee camps and having a personal connection with the artist.

The works, mostly images of animals and plants, as well as an occasional portrait or still-life, acquired very personal symbolism for different members of the family. Curated by Anna Winestein, Executive Director of Ballets Russes Arts Initiative, this show tells the story of both Hnizdovsky and the Gamotas in the intimate setting of the Museum’s Contemporary Exhibition Gallery.

Jacques Hnizdovsky, Ibex, 1972, woodcut. © 2019 Estate of Jacques Hnizdovsky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Zhostovo: A Russian-American Odyssey

April 6 – October 20, 2019

Combining traditional Zhostovo tray painting techniques and American educational methods and materials to kindle interest in this beautiful painting style around the world

Every journey begins with a step. The first step of this odyssey was taken when Tricia Joiner went to Russia as the Soviet Union was collapsing. She was driven to make the trip by her intense interest in European decorative arts and their traditional techniques. A chance connection led her to the Zhostovo Tray Factory just outside of Moscow, where she met Master Zhostovo Artist, Vyacheslav (Slava) Letkov. What happened there changed her life and the lives of thousands of painters around the globe that they introduced to the Zhostovo style of art. For almost 20 years, Tricia and Slava traveled around the U.S. and the world, teaching painters the beautiful techniques and style that grew out of their collaboration.

Tricia was a well established American decorative painter, teacher, and author when she went to Russia to learn more about that country’s extraordinary decorative arts. Slava is one of the world’s most outstanding and prolific artists, but is not a teacher and had never used acrylic paints. Using Slava’s artistic skills and Tricia’s knowledge of teaching, they developed a program, teaching the traditional Zhostovo techniques across the U.S. and four continents.

Many of the works in this exhibit of Tricia’s collection were painted by Slava Letkov, Merited Artist of Russia and recipient of the Repin Award, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year. He was the youngest of seven masters recognized during the factory’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in 1977 and is the only one still painting. Slava no longer travels but does continue to paint. Tricia continues to paint and teach, including online classes.

Come see examples of factory and exhibition trays demonstrating the breadth of the Zhostovo art form. The traditional trays were painted in oils with mostly floral designs and dried in ovens to save time. There are furniture pieces and household items painted in acrylics, which are examples of the increasingly challenging class projects. Learn how thousands of students from dozens of countries have been taught to paint a Zhostovo rose. The educational process that Tricia brought to Zhostovo painting is illustrated. A large panel demonstrates this style of painting used to tell a Russian fairy tale. Join one of Tricia’s classes or lectures and learn more for yourself.