David Kakabadze (1889–1952)

A child of a poor peasant family, Kakabadze is sponsored by local philanthropists to study natural sciences at the University of Saint Petersburg, graduating in 1916. During his studies he attends painting classes and researches old Georgian arts. In Saint Petersburg he meets the Georgian artists Kyrill and Ilya Zdanevich and Mikahïl Le Dentu. They introduce him to Cubism and Russian Futurism and the art of the Georgian painter Niko Pirosmani, discovered in 1912 by the Zdanevich brothers and Le Dentu.

 


David Kakabadze, Selbstportrait, 1913.

 

Their interest in folk art and outsiders matches that of Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, and many other Russian and European avant-garde artists, who cultivate a fascination for local traditions and popular art, recognizing alternatives to established and academic Western styles and ways of thinking. In 1917, Kakabadze begins to work on a series of Imereti landscapes including Imereti – My Mother.


David Kakabadze, Imereti-My Mother, 1918.


David Kakabadze, Imereti, 1917.


David Kakabadze, Red Mountain, 1944.

Together with Lado Gudiashvili and Sergei Sudeykin he is invited in 1919 to paint the most popular artist café of the period: Kimerioni situated in the basement of today’s Rustaveli theater. He also participates in painting the murals in the two artist cafés Fantastic Tavern and Peacock’s Tail. In 1919, together with his brother Sargis Kakabadze, he publishes Shvidi Mnatobi – an interdisciplinary journal on art, literatures, science, politics and theory. In the same year, the newly established Democratic Republic of Georgia sends several young artists to Paris to receive further training, among them Kakabadze.


David Kakabadze, Paris, 1920.

In Paris, he immerses himself in the city’s vibrant cultural scene. Impacted by the popularity of abstract art, he starts to incorporate metal, mirror glass, stained glass and other materials into his paintings.

In 1922, he develops a stereoscopic film projector for which he obtains international patents. «As a plastic image, film is imperfect. It lacks animated three-dimensionality» (Kakabadze). A company is established to produce the apparatus, but soon fails for lack of financial support. Between 1924 and 1926, Kakabadze publishes a series of articles in the Bulletin de L’Effort moderne, a magazine edited by the Parisian art dealer Léonce Rosenberg: Du tableau constructif, L’Art—L’Espace, Deux conceptions Spaciales (Orient et Occident). He also takes part in the exhibitions of the Société des Artistes Indépendants. In 1926, works of Kakabadze are included in the International Exhibition of Modern Art at the Brooklyn Museum, organized by the Société Anonyme whose founder are Catherine Drier, Marcel Duchamp, and Man Ray.

In 1927, Kakabadze returns to Georgia where the new Soviet government has outlawed abstract art. In 1928 he starts a professorship at the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts, but is soon pressured by Soviet authorities for «failing» to abandon Formalism and adapt to the dogmas of Socialist Realism. He stops painting altogether and starts designing stage sets for the leading Georgian theater director Kote Marjanishvili. For Ernst Toller’s play Hoppla, We’re Alive!, he uses fragments of movies, projectors, light effects, and mirror balls to create a theatrical space similar to a collage. He creates impressive set designs for films by Noutsa Gogoberidze (Buba, 1930), Michail Kalatosov (Jim Shavante, 1930), and Mikheil Chiraureli (Saba, 1931). In 1931, he produces the documentary The Old Monuments of Georgia, which is considered lost today. In the 1930s, Kakabadze returns to painting landscapes. In order to satisfy the authorities and their request for Socialist Realism, he includes elements like power plants or demonstrators with portraits of Lenin, Beria, and Stalin into his almost abstract paintings. Nevertheless, in 1948, Kakabadze is dismissed from the Tbilisi State Academy of Arts for failing to conform to Socialist Realism. He is unable to find new employment and dies from a heart attack in 1952.

 

Cubistic Paris:


David Kakabadze, 1920.

Sailboats:


David Kakabadze, 1921.


David Kakabadze, 1921.


David Kakabadze, 1921.


David Kakabadze, 1927.

 

Bretagne:


David Kakabadze, Bretagne, 1921.

 

Photography:


David Kakabadze, Mother, 1910.


David Kakabadze, The Bridge across Rioni River, 1910.


David Kakabadze, Gipsy Camp, 1910.