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Arts and Entertainment

International Poster Exhibit At MSU Brick City Gallery Commemorates Chernobyl and COVID

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(Poster courtesy Missouri State University Brick City Gallery)
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Maria Gerasimchuk-Djordjevic, Assistant Professor of Design in the Missouri State University Art and Design Department, visited us on “Arts News” to talk about a new poster exhibit that boasts both wide ranging subject matter and wide ranging origins. It's called “The World After Chernobyl and COVID,” and it opens next week at the MSU Brick City Gallery, 215 W. Mill Street in downtown Springfield.                                                                                                                                 

“The exhibit focuses on two global events, and then the span of years that happened between them.  One is the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine—next month marks the 35th anniversary of the meltdown. Maria Gerasimchuk-Djordjevic is herself a native of Ukraine. “I was a week from turning one when it happened, and I lived in Ukraine for 17 years, just kind of living in the shadow of it, during my teenage years and my formative years.” The other event is the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, which is just now reaching the one-year mark here in the United States; as Gerasimchuk-Djordjevic added, “in some countries it had started before that.”

“In Brick City Gallery we have two galleries, the East Gallery and the West Gallery. So in the East Gallery, we will have posters from the archives of The Fourth Block. And then in the West Gallery, we will have posters around the theme of COVID and the world after. So it's kind of two exhibitions being brought into one, with the theme of events that changed the world.”

The Fourth Block is an organization formed by Oleg Veklenko in Kharkiv, Ukraine. “He was actually a liquidator of the Chernobyl disaster, and he is also a graphic designer.” Veklenko organized The Fourth Block (which takes its name from Nuclear Reactor Number 4 at Chernobyl) as a triennial poster exhibition in Ukraine; it has evolved into a global poster competition. For the MSU Brick City Gallery exhibit, The Fourth Block will provide posters they have collected over the years the competition has taken place.

One of Oleg Veklenko’s former design students, Olga Severina, started the other organization involved with this exhibit, PosterTerritory. “They promote all kinds of different global poster competitions, but also focusing on their own projects, and it is a multimedia platform,” according to Maria Gerasimchuk-Djordjevic. Social, political, and environmental issues are the major focus of PosterTerritory’s activities. “Social poster design in general is applicable to so many different areas of our life. And it's not, of course, just about global disasters.” But this particular exhibit, to take place in Brick City’s West Gallery, is focused on the theme of “the world after COVID.”

The focus of the two exhibits, she said, is “just kind of colliding with these somewhat dark anniversaries” in April: the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, and the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 quarantine, and exploring the history of both.

The two exhibits will run March 24 to April 9 at Brick City Gallery.  The evening after the exhibits open, Thursday March 25th from 5:30 to 6:30pm, there will be a “Slow Viewing Night,” as Maria Gerasimchuk-Djordjevic explained. “The Slow Viewing Nights are done by one of our graduate students, Shauna Smith. Viewers are invited to participate for about an hour in one of the galleries. There will be a piece selected. Of course, when the doors are open, people are able to come in and just preview the (entire) exhibition. And then attention is focused around one or two pieces. Viewers get to kind of reflect and look at that piece and then participate in a conversation around that particular work." Art and Design Graduate Assistant Shauna Smith will facilitate that discussion.

“I hope people come out and see the show,” said Gerasimchuk-Djorjdevic. “It represents a lot of international artists. And it's interesting to get this show not only to MSU, but also to experience what usually is exhibited in much larger cities in different countries. So we're lucky to have this show. And it's quite interesting. There's almost a hundred posters in there, so it is quite massive. And it's a visual treat in a way… well, the subject matter, of course, is no joke.” Poster art of this king has become an art form unto itself, "and has been for quite some time,” she said, adding that social poster design is a focus of the Design program in the MSU Art and Design Department.

MSU Brick City Gallery is free and open to the public, Mon-Fri 11:00am to 6:00pm, with extended hours to 8:00pm on Thursday; also Saturday from noon-4:00pm; the gallery is closed on Sundays. It will be open during regular hours for the April 2nd First Friday Art Walk, rather than during the evening, to help maintain COVID-19 compliance. Information is available at https://brickcitygallery.missouristate.edu.