Eteri Chkadua Born in Tbilisi, Georgia. Lives and works in Tbilisi and New York.

Picturing a Georgian Artist as a New Amazon and Woman of the World

by Lilly Wei

It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to walk by the confident, confrontational, beautifully executed paintings of Eteri Chkadua without coming to an immediate halt. Closely observed, realistically depicted, moderate to large self-portraits - or portrayals of alter egos with intense, challenging dark eyes, red lips and abundant hair who bear a striking physical resemblance to the artist - Eteri Chkadua’s pictures appear more monumental than they really are and might be designated as magic feminism, an over-the-top, pop-oriented, fantastic foray into female role-playing and the uses of self as subject, a strategy much in evidence since the 70s feminists. In Eteri’s (she prefers the use of her first name) paintings, however, these roles almost always posit women as seductresses, sultry, eruptive beauties of a wild and wily kind, part trollop, part heroine (Borat’s dream girl?) who often return the (male?) gaze with an unflinching one of their own although they can, at times, be demure, even pensive.

Eteri, who was born and raised in Soviet Georgia, based in New York since 1992 via Chicago, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Montreal and currently living in New York and Kingston, Jamaica, uses her many invented personae to create a construct of contemporary feminine identity, a container for social and cultural values that are ultimately Georgian, in dialogue with the multiple perspectives and displacements that characterize many of today’s peripatetic artists. Eteri, however, dresses her radiant, neo-dada pop babes in the painstaking, labor-intensive techniques of the old masters (she only completes three or four paintings a year) which includes the use of oil paint on a linen support, a brilliant palette and high-definition, mimetic skills worthy of a sixteenth century Flemish artist, techniques acquired at the Georgian Academy of Fine Arts. These are autobiographical works, even a travelogue of sorts a semiotics of high and low tourism keyed to events in her life as they unfold with flashbacks that recall and reinvent the country she has left, like Hollywood movie posters updated, with a Caucasus slant.

In the ten paintings for Venice, which span several years, from 1999-2006, she appears, for instance, as a dancer wearing a Muslim head scarf, twirling four coppercolored braids, beautifully formed tears that seem actually wet shimmering on her cheeks (Dancer, 2006); a contemporary girl with her head wrapped in a coral scarf, her skinny tank top leaving her midriff exposed, sitting backward on a boldly striped zebra (Unfaithful Wife, 2005); a bare-breasted tourist in an orange sarong and flip-flops surrounded by the tropical flora of Jamaica or Miami with horns implanted in her head (Tourist, 2004); a sly devil of a black she-cat about to pounce (Demon, 2002-2003); a teasing, smiling, gloriously red-haired latter day angel or chorine wrapped in soft white fur that suggest wings, strong, rosy legs kicking out from a ruffled white tutu in free fall against a heavenly blue ground (Dowry, 2003); and a tightly coiffed, black-haired woman on her back, her long braid snaking across the width of the painting, erotically curved into a hybridized yoga and Kama Sutra position, legs compressed, sex exposed, floated on a subtly patterned white field with lotus-like red flowers (Sleeping Goddess, 1999).

Eteri, like many of her compatriots, is steeped in Georgian lore and idiosyncrasies, with a strong attachment to her native land, despite her cosmopolitanism. Many of the objects in her paintings are Georgian objects, chosen for their specific cultural meaning although Eteri, feels free to incorporate what she wants and change what she wants. Nonetheless, they form a coded system of visual signification that is part of the content of her paintings, such as the filigreed sword that is found in most Georgian homes, the horn of hospitality, offered to guests, in particular late ones, filled with strong drink which must be emptied in one gulp in order to catch up with the others, traditional copper vessels, fine, elaborate jewelry native to the region, or a white sheepskin hat that is worn by Georgian men which may be one way to channel home.

Eteri Chkadua, with great spirit and independence, blends the traditional with the contemporary, the Georgian with the global and represents a younger generation of artists who navigate with style and a sturdy optimism the complications and expanded fields of our brave, sometimes terrifying, new world.
Eteri Chkadua Retrospective Exhibition, MOMA, Tbilisi, Georgia (upcoming);
Gaumarjos, The Pool NYC gallery, Milan, Italy;
Alien Bloom, collaborative Installation with Gocha Chkadua, Longhouse Reserve, East Hampton, NY;
Bloom Since January, collaborative Installation with Gocha Chkadua, Consulate of Georgia, New York, NY;
Anonymous, collaboration with Tbilisi LGBTQ society,  Europa House, Tbilisi, Georgia;
The Book, Gala gallery, Tbilisi, Georgia;
Brooklyn Bloom, collaborative installation with Gocha Chkadua, GGrippo's art+design, Brooklyn, NY;
An Unusual Exhibition, Museum of Literature, Tbilisi, Georgia;
Selvatica, The Pool NYC gallery, Mexico City, Mexico;
Bloom On The Edge, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies;
Colors Insulting To Nature, Gallery 151, NYC;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, The Pool NYC gallery, Bolognia, Italy;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, Museum of Dolls, Tbilisi Georgia;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, Luna Kulturhus Konsthallen, Sodertalje, Sweden;
Remembering Heroes, National Music Theatre, Tbilisi, Georgia;
52 nd  La Biennale di Venezia, Georgian Pavilion, Venice, Italy;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, Corridor Gallery, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Brooklyn, NY;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, Sperone Westwater, New York, NY;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, Casas Riegner Gallery, Miami, FL;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, Vrej Baghoomian Gallery, New York, NY;
Art Chicago, Maya Polsky gallery, Chicago, IL;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings, Maya Polsky Gallery, Chicago, IL.
Self-Portrait By The Mirror, D.Shevardnadze National Museum, Tbilisi, Georgia;
La Guerra e Finita, La Pace Non è Ancora Iniziata,  Fondazione Imago Mundi, Gallerie Delle Prigioni, Treviso, Italy;
Ballots No Bullets, White box, New York, NY;
Art For Ukraine, The Church, Sag Harbor, NY;
Perfect Day, (Drugs and Art),  White Box, New York, NY;
Dreamers, Dreamers art project, video installations in urban spaces, Brooklyn, NY;
Love Is In The Air, The PooL NYC Gallery, Milan, Italy;
We Must Be Free, project by  American Embassy, ArtTent, Tbilisi, Georgia;
Divagazioni, Gian Enzo Sperone Gallery, Sent, Switzerland;
East End Collected 4,  Southampton Art Center, South Hampton, NY;
Natural Proclivities, Fiterman Art Center, New York, NY;
VITEL TONNE, The Pool NYC Gallery, Palazzo Cesari-Marchesi, Venice, Italy;
ART 3 AM, Sonchino, Italy;
OPEN 18, Venice, Italy;
60 Americans, Elga Wimmer gallery, New York, NY;
A Palace With A View, The Pool NYC Gallery, Palazzo Cesari Marchesi, Venice, Italy;
Neighbors, Istanbul Modern Museum, Istanbul, Turkey;
Water Tank Project, New York, NY;
Wide Shot, The Pool NYC gallery, Venice, Italy;
Portraits /Self -Portraits From The 16-Th to the 21-Th Century, Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York, NY;
En Plein Air, Stux gallery, New York, NY;
Gender Check, Zacheta National Gallery, Warsaw, Poland;
Scope Art Fair  NY, The Pool NYC, New York, NY;
Gender Check, MuMok, Museum of Modern Art, Vienna, Austria;
L’exposition Géorgienne d’art Contemporain, Château de Saint Auvent en Limousin, France;
Open 12, Lido, Venice, Italy, curated by Paolo Grandis.
Kingston On The Edge, Kingston, Jamaica;
Art and Politics, Tribe, New York, NY;
Dumbo Double Deuce, Brooklyn, NY;
Nude, Aldredge Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut;
Upton gallery, Buffalo State college Museum of Art and Archeology, University of Missouri, Missouri;
The Kitchen Art Center, New York, NY;
Reversing The Gaze, Indiana University (Northwest) Museum, Indiana;
From Georgia to Georgia, International Art Exhibition, Atlanta, GA;
Art Chicago, Maya Polsky gallery, Chicago, IL;
Art Chicago, Maya Polsky gallery, Chicago, IL;
Eteri Chkadua Paintings Maya Polsky Gallery, Chicago, IL;
Visiting professor of painting and drawing, graduate Program, New York Academy of Arts, New York, NY;
Visiting professor, University of California, Department of Fine Arts and College of Creative Studies, Santa Barbara, CA;
Creative time grant;
New York Foundation For The Arts grant;
Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant;
TV Interviews