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Famed Putin Made with 5000 Bullet Shells Makes NYC Premiere

By: Jan. 24, 2018
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Famed Putin Made with 5000 Bullet Shells Makes NYC Premiere  Image

A seven-foot-high portrait of Vladimir Putin composed of thousands of spent bullet casings from the Eastern Ukraine war front is among the highlights of a large-scale multimedia exhibit at the Ukrainian Institute of America exploring the impact of Russia's three-year-old military and propaganda war in Ukraine. From January 25th through February 4th, Five Elements of War probes the causes, turmoil, and consequences of the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II, which has already claimed more than 10,000 lives. The exhibit is the brainchild of acclaimed Ukrainian artist-activists Daria Marchenko and Daniel D. Green.

Both artists took part in the 2014 uprising against the country's Russian-backed regime, known as the Maidan Revolution, and witnessed the killing of friends on the streets of Kiev. The exhibit also provides New Yorkers with an opportunity to discover the hidden splendor and arts treasures of the Ukrainian Institute of America, which makes its home in the Fletcher-Sinclair mansion, an architectural gem along Manhattan's Museum Mile. Designed by renowned Gilded Age architect Charles P.H. Gilbert, the building is designated as a National Historical Landmark.

The installation delivers a multi-sensory, visceral viewing experience by incorporating physical objects gathered from the war's front lines, including shrapnel and documents. Combined with oil and acrylic paints, these elements imbue the work with a tactile quality that makes the war concrete rather than abstract, bridging the divide between American viewers and the embattled citizens of eastern Ukraine.

"Five Elements of War offers an 'in your face,' frank, first-hand view of the impact of Russia's military aggression and propaganda on Ukrainian society and culture," said Walter Hoydysh, PhD, director of Art at the Institute. "We hope it gives audiences a deeper understanding of the conflict and its ramifications not just in Europe but also here in the U.S."

"Art sometimes has more power than wars and can provoke long lasting changes," said Marchenko and Green. "We felt that we could not explore what is happening in Ukraine with just paint so we decided to turn ammunition into art. Bullets and debris of weapons are what is left behind after people are killed and they are used to represent the lives of the people lost in this war." The installation consists of five artworks which each stand on their own but are conceptually connected, creating one overarching composition. Each individual work speaks to a different aspect of the war:

  • The Face of War, the exhibition's seven-foot high signature piece, unapologetically identifies Russian president Vladimir Putin as The Man behind the conflict. Composed of five thousand bullet cartridges gathered from the war's Eastern front, the towering portrait changes with the shifting light in the exhibition space, one moment offering a propagandistic image of a calculating dictator, the next hinting at universal human nature in the time of war.
  • The Brain of War, which resembles a huge grenade-shaped vase filled with cameras and a film reel, represents the war's media front, where false news reports are lobbed into the global community by Russian propagandists.
  • Flesh of War examines the relationship between oppressed and oppressor through a pair of giant female figures placed between two continents made of bullets and shelves. The piece reminds viewers how women often bear the brunt of war, as protectors of their homes, victims of violence and aggression, and refugees with their families.
  • Honour addresses the rest of the world's role as spectators and the failure of global powers to intervene in the war.
  • The Heart of War refers to the raw materials necessary for military intervention.

Arranged and organized by Hoydysh of the Ukrainian Institute of America and sponsored by Raymond F. Staples, Esq., of TMP Holdings, this exhibition marks the artists' first showing with The Ukrainian Institute of America in New York. Five Elements of War was previously presented at M17 Gallery (Kyiv), the Rayburn House Office Building (Washington, D.C.), and most recently at The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art (Chicago).

About Art at the Institute Celebrating its sixty-third year of activity, Art at the Institute is the visual arts programming division of The Ukrainian Institute of America. Since its establishment in 1955, Art at the Institute organizes projects and exhibitions with the aim of providing post-war and contemporary Ukrainian artists a platform for their creative output, presenting it to the broader public on New York's Museum Mile. These heritage projects have included numerous exhibitions of traditional and contemporary art, and topical stagings that have become well-received landmark events.

About the Ukrainian Institute of America The Ukrainian Institute of America, Inc. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the art, music and literature of Ukraine and the Ukrainian diaspora. It serves both as a center for the Ukrainian-American community and as America's "Window on Ukraine," hosting art exhibits, concerts, film screenings, poetry readings, literary evenings, children's programs, lectures, symposia, and full educational programs, all open to the public.

In 1897 the banker, broker and railroad investor Isaac D. Fletcher (1844-1917) commissioned the architect Charles P.H. Gilbert to design a new house. Gilbert designed over 100 large houses in New York City during a career that spanned from the 1880s to the 1920s. As a C.P.H. Gilbert house, the mansion was given a second life as home to the Ukrainian Institute of America in 1955. Founded in 1948 by William Dzus, inventor, industrialist, and philanthropist, The Ukrainian Institute is permanently housed in the Fletcher-Sinclair mansion at 2 East 79th Street and Fifth Avenue. The building is designated as a National Historic Landmark and protected as a contributing element of the New York Metropolitan Museum Historic District.