“Z” - Ketevan Kintsurashvili’s ART LINE

DAVID KAKABADZE

(1889-1952)

A GREAT GEORGIAN MODERNIST


In the Forefront of Modernism

 


David (on the left) and Shalva Kikodze. Paris. 1923.

In 1919 the government of independent Georgia sent David Kakabadze, together with some other young artists, to Paris. His aim was to study modern artistic trends and try himself in them. The artist began from Cubism, which was also the continuation of experiments, started in Petersburg. He was attracted by the cubist task of simultaneous fixation of visible reality from different points. In the centre of world civilization he acutely felt the time, which he himself called the epoch of “machinism and cinematograph”.

He had the right to consider himself a full member of Parisian artistic life not only because the doors of Paris were open for everybody, but also because he himself kept up with the time. While watching movies he was dissatisfied that one did not perceive three dimensions in them. The modernists had long ago abandoned geometric perspective. Many generations of artists had been working at the problems of colour and Kakabadze joined the research too.


D. Kakabadze. Geometrical Composition. 1920.

In 1921 Kakabadze created in Bretagne the images of boats, resting on water, first realistic, then cubist and biomorphic. All the series are made in water colour, and in each separate case he applies it paint in a particular manner. Basically, he is engaged in the problem of depicting space on a plane, which he resolves under the influence of Chinese or Japanese graphics.

This is also characteristic for modernist thinking. In these series he gradually digresses from visible reality and embraces the path of abstracting. If we consider the biomorphic forms in one of the series and the period of their creation, we may be able to say that Kakabadze was one of the pioneers in the history of Modernism to have developed Organic Abstraction.


D. Kakabadze. Brittany. 1921.


D. Kakabadze. Sailboats. 1921.



D. Kakabadze. Sailboats. 1921.


A stereoscopic film projector. Invented by David. 1925.


The idea of creating a three-dimensional cinema is haunting the artist. In 1922 he creates a stereo-apparatus without spectacles, for which he receives patents from America and many European countries.

A joint stock company is founded enabling David to create a technical apparatus and receive the first image, but due to insufficient financing he fails to accomplish this undertaking. Subsequently, based on those quests and discoveries, David creates the collages, which may be considered his particular achievements in fine arts. The language of collage was discovered by Picasso 12 years earlier. Similarly, one decade earlier Duchamp offered the first ready-made product to spectators. The Dadaists were already actively applying both methods. Kakabadze’s collages are original. He makes use of metallic parts, lenses, mirrors, wood.


D. Kakabadze. Constructive Decorative Composition. 1924.


D. Kakabadze. Constructive Decorative Composition. 1924.

 

Artistic objects, created with these means, approach organic, embryonic forms. Here the artist is among the first to apply a sprayer for colouring background. The essential part of compositions are original frames – made of wood or metal, decorated with various details. To several compositions electric bulbs are attached on the reverse and when they are switched on an additional effect is created. Mirror and glass serve to represent the depth anew. Besides, the images, reflected in them, impart more dynamics to the composition. The flickering bulb is also a dynamic element. Time is clearly reflected in the collages; at the same time compositionally they are as concentrated and balanced, as any work, belonging to Kakabadze.

In 1924-1925 David Kakabadze creates mainly biomorphic abstractions. In them organic, vegetative and embryonic forms prevail. With their isolated curvilinear forms, concentration in a free space of one monolithic silhouette Kakabadze’s biomorphic abstractions come closer to the works of Hans Arp among the Europeans. Nevertheless, as distinguished from Arp, Kakabadze is interested in the problem of creating the illusion of depth through the interchange of colours on plane. With this aim he studies in detail the scientific work and diagrams of Helmholtz and Maxwell.


D. Kakabadze. Composition. 1924.


D. Kakabadze. Abstraction. 1925.

David Kakabadze has never been a member of the Dadaists’ or Surrealists’ associations. But his collages and biomorphic abstractions come close to both trends.

When speaking about Surrealism we imply in this case the earlier stage of the trend, when Miro, Ernst, Man Ray, Arp, formerly the core of Dadaism and authors of organic abstractions, are creating surrealistic abstractions. For David Kakabadze particularly close was the direction, developed by them. He found himself as an organic part of the current, which subsequently turned its back to Surrealism and developed extreme abstraction.


Marcel Duchamp and Katherine Dreier. 1936.

In 1926 an American collector and artist, apologist of avant-garde art Katherine Drier visited France and Germany in order to collect the samples of modern, innovative art and present it in America. In 1920 together with Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray she created a so called Societe Anonyme, the goal of which was to exhibit, collect and study avant-garde art. In the Paris Salon of Independents Drier saw Kakabadze’s works and visited him in his studio to purchase them. This is how it happened that the Georgian artist’s works emerged at the Brooklyn International Exhibition, held in New York in the same 1926. This is how it was that they joined the collection of the Yale University Art Gallery. (Herbert, R., Apter, E., Kenney, E., (eds.), The Societe Anonyme and the Dreier Bequest at Yale University, New Haven-London, 1984).


The Societe Anonyme and Drier’s donation, transferred to Yale, is the richest collection of modern art. The majority of 1020 samples are masterpieces of the 1920’ies avant-garde art. They contain the best works of Mondrian, Gabo, Kandinsky, Duchamp, Man Ray, Brancussi, Pevzner, Bochioni, Moholi-Nagi, Malevich and other artists. Together with them Kakabadze’s sculpture “Z, Speared Fish” (1926), as well as his 16 water colours (1921) are presented. Side by side with the above listed artists Kakabadze is representing the epoch in the Yale University halls. Here he occupies the place in the avant-garde of world art.


D. Kakabadze. Z (Speared Fish). 1925.


D. Kakabadze. Abstract Form in Space. 1925.


The Yale sculpture represents a logical development in space of Kakabadze’s collages. Here he applies the same wood, metal, lenses and simple, organic colours. He carries the forms, found on a plane, into space. A diagonal, indicative of the depth on a plane, which the sculpture adjusted to itself as an arrow, makes form a dynamic part of entourage. The Z, with its perfect form and the means of depicting dynamic space, may be considered as an ornament, symbol of a new artistic epoch, which has brought the fourth dimension into consciousness and changed the attitude towards time and space.

In the same 1926 David Kakabadze created another sculpture, the destiny of which is unknown. There is only one photo, which makes it possible to have a certain idea about it. It is also an abstract sculpture. It in fact resembles fish, at that much more distinctly than the Z, called fish by Drier. As it seems, it is also made of wood and is polychrome. Here too metal parts and mirrorlike lenses are applied. The “breast” of the sculpture is covered with an abstract picture. The picture comes close to David Kakabadze’s abstract compositions of that period, resembling cosmic landscapes. Here the organic, embryonic form is present too. This is rather a decorative and ornamental sculpture. The piece is accomplished, which is confirmed by the author’s signature on its base. But the Yale sculpture is more concentrated, laconic and perfect.


D. Kakabadze. Abstraction. 1927.


D. Kakabadze. Abstraction. 1927.


In 1926-1927, prior to his return from Paris, David Kakabadze created a series of pictorial abstractions, in which it is cleary evident that the author is a natural scientist. They group particularly well within the borders of Abstract Surrealism. As opposed to the abstractions of previous period they are more detailed. Here David Kakabadze creates unreal worlds, often resembling cosmic landscapes, as well as a cell or plasma seen in the microscope. Sometimes we discern here the same embryonic image. Some details resemble contemporary echo-images. These chromatic compositions simultaneously, through their closeness to the heaven’s canopy and biological cell reveal clearly that in nature macrocosm and microcosm are based on similar order, have similar compositional texture. This is the order which imparts certain organizational pattern even to cosmic chaos. Kakabadze’s creative work stands on this solid ground (it is not by chance that he drew a system of cells in his earlier sketch).

In the late abstractions, along the external frame, in parallel with it goes the inner frame, delineated by a line of paint, functioning as an organizer even if the picture trespasses beyond this limit. He finds inspiration in nature and may be regarded as a precursor of a so called Concrete Art. He might not have known about this trend as it had evolved in Europe since 1931, when Kakabadze, as a Soviet citizen, was already out of touch with the logical chain of the development of art.


D. Kakabadze. Abstraction. 1927.

The name “concrete” was given to the extremely abstract art, which does not bear even slightest naturalistic resemblance to reality, but is based on the same harmony, as the universal world. “Abstract art places the new world, which at first glance has nothing to do with common reality, beside the real world. If we go deeper, it is governed by the laws of “cosmic world”. In this way “the new world of art” is interlocked with “the world of nature”. This “world of nature” is as real as concrete. So I prefer calling the so called “Abstract Art” “Concrete Art”,” – writes Kandinsky (Wassily Kandinsky, by Hajo Duchting, Taschen, 2000, p. 86). As a representative of Concrete Art he created in 1930-1940’ies biomorphic abstractions. The same tendency was developed in their art by Arp, Miro, Gabo – former representatives of Dada and the souls of Concrete Art from the early 1930’ies.

 

Kakabadze – a natural scientist, as Naum Gabo, who had also received an engineer’s education, was inventing in the course of work abstract forms, having no analogues in nature, but we often meet forms, resembling them, on the displays of contemporary computers.