Jan Hein Sassen
Contemporary art from Georgia. The exhibition is the first major survey show of Georgian contemporary art to take place outside the country's borders. With more than 70 artworks by 27 artists, the show provides fascinating insight into how a new generation of artists from Georgia views developments within contemporary art. Born in Georgia continues a series of exhibitions on the margins of Western art and new areas, including contemporary art from China (2007) and Leipzig (2008).
From 24 January through 14 June, 2009, the Cobra Museum of Modern Art in Amstelveen will be the first museum in the Netherlands to present a major overview of contemporary art from Georgia, a nation with a rich culture that long predates our written history. In over 70 works by 27 artists, a fascinating image is sketched of the way a new generation of Georgian artists relate to contemporary developments in art. It is evident that the current political situation must play a role here, but it does not provide direction. In association with the exhibition, from 24 - 30 January 2009, Holland Doc will be broadcasting several documentaries on Georgia. A bilingual catalogue also accompanies the exhibition.
In Europe, the early 1990s marked the beginning of a period of relative calm. The Soviet Union had broken up and the resulting nations steadily developed societies in which freedom and democratic values were no longer a utopia, but had in fact become reality. But there were exceptions. The Caucasus, and specifically Georgia, was burdened with successive wars and remained very unsettled. Despite, or perhaps because of this, art began to flourish as never before. It is fascinating work that, in terms of forms of expression, wholly fits within contemporary Western art traditions, but in terms of content is deeply rooted in the region from which the artists come.
The exhibition begins in the early 1990s. After being ruled by Russia for many decades, Georgia regained independence, but all too quickly had to cope with two wars and abandon its bond with Russia. Among older artists, the influence of these events is still very visible in their work. The conflicts meant that for ten years, artists of his generation had almost no contact with long-time friends and fellow artists in Russia. As did the new political situation, they began to look increasingly to the West. Despite new freedom, a third of the young artists left the country to begin a new life, especially in Germany. Among those who remained, a remarkable nostalgia for the Soviet era could sometimes be discerned in their work, as was the case in many other former Soviet countries. Art from this period includes many performances, installations, videos and photographs, comparable to contemporary developments in art in Russia. An astonishingly small amount of painting took place. The painting that was produced demonstrated a period of innovation, but this seems since to have completely disappeared.
Art by the younger generation presents a completely different picture. For them, their political heritage plays a far smaller role. What is remarkable about this most recent art from Georgia, and which is well represented in this exhibition, is that there are exceptional numbers of active women artists. Their work presents a powerful feminine side, generated by the strong social position of women in Georgia. Their preferred media are still film and video, in contrast to those Georgian artists who left Georgia in order to rekindle painterly traditions. If there is one thing that characterizes contemporary artists from Georgia, it is that they are poetic dreamers, sometimes enclosed within in their own thoughts, sometimes desiring expression in very emancipating fashion. It makes no difference to their art where they now live: as the nation of their birth, Georgia remains an indelible given, one all of the artists continue to carry with them.
Born in Georgia continues a series of exhibitions on the margins of Western art and new areas, including contemporary art from China (2007) and Leipzig (2008), already presented by the Cobra Museum for Modern Art.
The artists whose work is presented at the exhibition are: Tolia Astakhishvili, Nino Chubinishvili, Gia Edzgveradze, Thea Gvetadze, Keti Kapanadze, Anna K.E., Tamara K.E, , Tamuna Karumitidze, Ira Kurmaeva, Luka Lasareishvili, Group LOTT, Maia Naveriani, Koka Ramishvili, Nino Sekhniashvili, Gio Sumbadze, Maia Sumbadze, Thea Telia, Vato Tsereteli, Niko Tsetskhladze, Guram Tsibakhashvili and Iliko Zautashvili.
The accompanying bilingual catalogue includes texts by Jan Hein Sassen, interim director of the Cobra Museum for Modern Art, and Jane Sharp, PhD, researcher with the Norton & Nancy Dodge Collection of Nonconformist Art from the Soviet Union at the Jane Vorhees Zimmerli Art Museum in the US. The catalogue is published by 99 Publishers
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