Italian painter, born in Florence, where he studied at the Academy. In the early 1970s he worked with *Conceptual and *Performance art, but he returned to painting in 1975 and by the end of the decade he had adopted the style with which he has become one of the best-known Italian painters of his generation, characteristically featuring muscle-bound figures in pseudo-heroic situations parodying the Old Masters.
As the senior member of the group, he acquired something of the status of leader of the *Transavantgarde Italian painters. He was also the one who demonstrated the sheerest virtuosity in his handling of the figure, drawing on Poussin and classical sculpture. Norman Rosenthal has argued that Chia is above all preoccupied with the idea of the artist as heroic figure. He reads Audacious Raft (1982, Marx Collection, Berlin) as ‘The artist-hero himself…asleep on a raft steered by two giants floating down a river, perhaps towards poetic immortality, perhaps towards oblivion’. Evidently aware as to how far the whole notion of the artist as ‘all-conquering hero’ had become suspect in the wake of *feminist criticism, Rosenthal is careful to emphasize a degree of self-awareness in Chia's stance. The artist wrote in 1983: ‘I am a lion tamer among his beasts and I feel close to the heroes of my childhood, close to Michelangelo, Titian and Tintoretto.’ Not all critics have taken Chia at his own valuation. Robert *Hughes described his figures as ‘ladylike coal-heavers expelling wind while floating in postures vaguely derived from classical statuary’. Chia has also made bronze sculpture in a similar vein to his paintings. Further Reading Braun (1989)
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)