Friday, 29 August 2014

Malevich - Tate Modern

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, '1913'/1915
Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art is at Tate Modern until 26 October 2014.
In his very entertaining book, 1913: The Year  before the Storm, Florian Illies cites that year as the zero point of modern art:
"In December 1913 the first 'ready-made', the bicycle wheel on a wooden stool, is turning at the hand of Marcel Duchamp in Paris, while the first 'Black Square' comes into being in Moscow - the twin starting-points of modern art... We should always think of the 'Black Square' when we think of 1913." (Illies (2013) p247)
However, the precise dating of 'Black Square' is tricky: the image above appears on the Tate's website and is labelled 1913 - but, most accounts (including the Tate's) state that Malevich actually painted the first Black Square in 1915 and subsequent versions in 1923 and 1929 and a final one possibly in the early 30s which was dated '1913'! Malevich's rationale for the latter move was that the idea was conceived in 1913 - and, indeed, his 1913 stage designs for the Russian Futurist opera Victory over the Sun do anticipate the iconic Black Square.
Kazimir Malevich, Stage design for 'Victory over the Sun', 1913
Today, a century on (give or take a year!), Duchamp's and Malevich's radical gestures are still provocative, even if familarity has dulled their shock value. While Duchamp and Malevich can, I think, be justly seen as key figures of the radicalism in modern art, even they were responding in different ways to the innovations of Picasso's and Braque's Cubism (c.1908-14).
This exhibition presents an overview of Malevich's remarkably varied and radical work - he, effectively, worked through the avant-garde styles of the early 20th century - Fauvism, Futurism, Cubism - before arriving at the revolutionary, abstract style he called Suprematism, launched at the "0.10" exhibition in Petrograd in December 1915. Malevich later returned to figuration in the 1920s.
Read reviews by Laura CummingAdrian Searle, Waldemar Januszczak, Andrew Lambirth, Claudia Pritchard, and an article by Frances Spalding: Kazimir Malevich:The Man Who Liberated Painting.
Kazimir Malevich,  Self-Portrait, 1908-10
Kazimir Malevich,  Shroud of Christ, 1908
Kazimir Malevich,  The Woodcutter, 1912
Kazimir Malevich,  Englishman in Moscow, 1914
View of "0.10" exhibition in Petrograd, 1915
Kazimir Malevich,  Red Square (Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions), 1915
Kazimir Malevich,  Suprematist Painting (with Black Trapezium and Red Square), 1915

Kazimir Malevich,  White on White, 1918
Kazimir Malevich,  Woman Worker, 1933
Kazimir Malevich,  Self-Portrait, 1933

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