As a young artist, Ukraine's Zinaïda Kubar can already claim two rare accomplishments. Not only has she studied with the one and only Marina Abramović, her New York City debut was fêted with a party hosted by the towering performance artist. Zinaïda—who goes by her first name—staged a dramatic piece inspired by the strength of the women of her native country during her WhiteBox opening on Friday. If the post-show celebration was any indication, the master was pleased with her protege.
The show began even as guests filtered into the gallery: Three women—all Ukrainian models—slipped into the space, clad in simple light-brown dresses based on traditional Ukrainian garb. A pile of bright red kalyna berries, a national symbol of Ukraine, were heaped on the floor in the center of the room. (The plant's Latin species name is Viburnum, and it is known in the US as the guelder-rose or the snowball tree.)
"In Ukrainian tradition, kalyna is a talisman of femininity, purity, and virginity," Zinaïda, who goes by her first name, told artnet News a few minutes before the performance began, admitting that she snuck the fruits through customs illegally. The piece, titled Kalyna, played on those associations while also referencing more recent history in Ukraine, a country that has been locked in armed conflict since the spring of 2014.