Boris Chetkov (1926-2010) was a Russian artist who lived and worked in the Soviet Union through some of the most tumultuous periods in 20th-century history. The Hoffman Art Institute presents the first exhibition of his portraits in North America, held at Art Bastion in Miami, Florida. Spanning three decades, Boris Chetkov: Portraits brings together 26 important works from the zenith of his long career. The exhibition includes bold works created during Khrushchev’s Thaw of the 1960s, through his years painting in secret while working officially as a glass artist, up to his paintings made during the liberal glasnost years of the 1980s.
Chetkov was an outlier. Working alone and in secret for most of his career, he refused to subscribe to any one school or movement, choosing instead to weave a tapestry of influences into a style that was inimitably his own. At first glance a solitary dreamer, these portraits reveal the innovation and rigor with which Chetkov set about his work, deftly conjuring an image from rough patches of thickly applied paint to create profoundly psychological portraits. In these works detail is elided in favor of granular oil paint in irregular geometric shapes, to which a choice line in black is occasionally added to transform a simple patchwork of color into an extraordinarily expressive and captivating figure. Chetkov used highly unusual, almost jarring color combinations to tremendous effect and they form an identifying characteristic of his work.
Chetkov spoke of his ‘idyllic’ childhood; born into a peasant family near the Ural Mountains in 1926. His early years were unmarred by the worst of the Stalinist purges and ruthless collectivization that would eventually catch up with his family. Chetkov’s turbulent first decades as an adult - including a stint in the Gulag and conscription into a tank regiment at the end of the Second World War, followed by a long illness - meant that he was almost forty before he graduated from the Mukhina School of Arts in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) and started producing mature work.
Many of the portraits in the exhibition were made during Chetkov’s prodigious years working as Chief Glass Artist at a glass factory near Novgorod. It was a period of intense productivity, in spite of the need to work clandestinely as he did not have ‘official’ artist status. Chetkov chose to depict complex, distorted figures who present a stark contrast to the honed physiques and even features of the idealized Soviet man and woman of state-sanctioned Socialist Realism. Portraits such as Male Portrait, Eye of the Falcon, transfixing you with a single piercing eye, or Woman in Headdress, called up from an exquisite palette of sea-green and umber, pay testimony to his skill and dedication as an artist, persevering alone during a time when individual difference was discouraged.
This exhibition presents a unique opportunity to see some of Chetkov’s most significant portraits for the first time. Intense, beguiling and sometimes playful, these paintings offer a glimpse into the complex and radical mind that created them, providing an ideal introduction to an artist of swiftly-growing renown.
Boris Chetkov: Portraits is co-curated by Rosie Rockel, Art Historian and the Hoffman Art Institute with Sebastiano Varoli, Director of Art Bastion. All the exhibits on display are on generous loan from the Hoffman Art Institute. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog and a program of talks and events in the gallery.
Notes to Editor
Boris Chetkov: Portraits is open to the public from Friday February 20th to Saturday March 21st 2015.
The opening reception will be held on Thursday 19th of February 2015 at 8.00pm.
Art Bastion gallery opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday between 11:00 am–6:00 pm. Address: 2085 NW 2nd Avenue #104, Miami FL artbastion.com
Art Bastion is an international art agency and gallery that endeavors to discover and represent artists from around the world, and to introduce their artwork to a wider audience. Art Bastion was initially founded as an agency to discover talented artists, to jump-start their careers and to create a globalized network via the Internet that would facilitate communication among artists, collectors, and the everyday art aficionado. Art Bastion endeavors to organize exhibitions to complement the marketing and sales done through the Internet.
The Hoffman Art Institute
The Hoffman Art Institute was founded by Peter Hoffman, Jr, a lifelong collector of art who wishes to share his extensive private collection with the world. The Hoffman Art Institute holds a large collection of major works by Russian artist Boris Chetkov, many of which have never before been seen by the general public. Chetkov is an artist of enormous personal significance to Hoffman himself, who says Chetkov ‘paints in a manner that combines beauty, intelligence, movement, and color, suggesting a belief that all things are interconnected and part of a great whole.’ The Hoffman Art Institute organizes exhibitions, promotes scholarship and spreads awareness internationally of the work of Chetkov and other artists.