Kazimir Severinovich Malevich (Russian Казимир Северинович Малевич, scientific. Transliteration Kazimir Severinovič Malevič, Ukrainian Казимир Северинович Малевич Kasymyr Severynovych Malevych, Polish Kazimierz Malevicz; b. 11 Februaryjul. February 23, 1878greg. in Kiev; † May 15, 1935 in Leningrad) was a painter and main representative of the Russian avant-garde, pioneer of Constructivism and founder of Suprematism. He was influenced by Late Impressionism, Fauvism and Cubism. His abstract Suprematist painting The Black Square on a White Ground from 1915 is considered a milestone of modernist painting and is referred to as an “icon of modernism.”
Childhood and youth
His father Severyn Malevicz (Russian: Severin Antonovich Malevich, 1845-1902) and his mother Ludwika (Russian: Lyudviga Alexandrovna, 1858-1942) were of Polish origin who had moved from the Russian-occupied Kingdom of Poland to the Kiev Governorate (now Ukraine) within the Tsarist Empire after the January Uprising of 1863, which had been put down by Imperial Russian troops. Both parents were Catholics, and Ukrainian was spoken in the family in addition to Polish, Russian. Malevich himself referred to himself alternately as Ukrainian or Pole, depending on the intention necessary at the time, but later in life denied any nationality.
Malevich”s father was a technical employee in various factories of the sugar beet industry in Podolia and Volhynia. Due to the frequent changes of jobs, Malevich experienced an unsteady childhood in meager circumstances. Malevich completed his extremely rudimentary school education with a five-year apprenticeship at an agricultural school. However, his interest in drawing from nature awakened in him at the age of 13. Three years later, he was inspired by a “painter who painted the roof and mixed a green like the trees, like the sky. That gave me the idea that one could reproduce the tree and the sky with this color. The pencil, however, annoyed me very much, and I finally threw it away to take up the brush.”
The family moved to Kursk in 1896, where the father took a position in the administration of the Kursk-Moscow railroad company and arranged for his son to work as a technical draftsman. Malevich found like-minded autodidacts there who painted exclusively from nature and whom he joined.
In 1901 he married the Polish Kazimiera Sgleitz. His father thwarted all his attempts to apply to the Art Academy in Moscow, but by the fall of 1904 Malevich had saved enough money to study at the School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in Moscow by 1905.
An initial experience for Malevich in 1904 was the sight of Claude Monet”s painting of Rouen Cathedral, which was in the collection of the art patron Sergei Shchukin in Moscow. “For the first time I saw the light-filled reflections of the blue sky, the pure, transparent hues. From that moment I became an Impressionist.” From 1905 to 1910, he continued his training by studying at the private studio of Fyodor Rerberg in Moscow.
In 1907 Malevich”s family finally moved to Moscow, and in the same year his first public exhibition of twelve sketches took place as part of the 14th Exhibition of the Union of Moscow Artists alongside artists who were also still largely unknown, such as Vasily Kandinsky, Mikhail Fedorovich Larionov, Nataliya Sergeyevna Goncharova. In 1909 Malevich married Sofia Rafalovich, the daughter of a psychiatrist, in his second marriage. The following year he participated in the exhibition of the artists” group “Jack of Diamonds” organized by Larionov and Goncharova. From 1910 began his neo-primitivist period, in which he painted, for example, the Dielenbohnerer, a painting with a significantly reduced spatial perspective.
Goncharova and Larionov separated from the group “Jack of Diamonds” in 1912, which seemed to them to be Westernized, and founded the artists” association “Donkey”s Tail” in Moscow, in which Malevich participated. At an exhibition of this association he met the painter and composer Mikhail Vasilyevich Matyushin. The acquaintance led to a stimulating collaboration, and a lifelong friendship developed between the two artists.
Larionov had hitherto been the leader of the avant-garde, but as a result of Malevich”s growing claim, a rivalry developed for the leading role, which also had its cause in different artistic concepts. Malevich turned to Cubo-Futurism, which he presented as the only justifiable direction in art during a lecture at the “Union of Youth” in St. Petersburg. He painted several pictures in this style until 1913, for example the painting The Woodcutter. His work was also represented overseas at the Armory Show (International Exhibition of Modern Art) in New York in 1913.
The opera Victory over the Sun, Founding of Suprematism
In the summer of 1913, with Malevich”s participation, work began in Uusikirkko (Finland) on the composition of the opera Victory over the Sun. The futuristic work was premiered on December 3, 1913, at the Lunapark Theater in Saint Petersburg. Velimir Khlebnikov wrote the prologue, Alexei Kruchonych the libretto, the music was by Mikhail Matyushin, and the stage design and costumes were by Malevich. On a stage curtain he painted the first Black Square. This is also the reason why Malevich postponed the birth of Suprematism to 1913 and did not refer to the Suprematist paintings of 1915 in the true sense of the word. In March-April 1914, an exhibition took place at the “Salon des Indépendants” in Paris, at which Malevich was represented with three paintings.
In 1915 he wrote the manifesto From Cubism to Suprematism. The New Painterly Realism – with the Black Square on the cover – and exhibited his Suprematist painting The Black Square on a White Ground for the first time in December at the Last Futurist Exhibition “0,10” at the Dobychina Gallery in Petrograd (the name for Saint Petersburg from 1914 to 1924), which was described in the catalog as a square. The mysterious number 0,10 denotes a figure of thought: zero, because it was expected that after the destruction of the old, the world could begin again from zero, and ten, because originally ten artists wanted to participate. In fact, there were fourteen artists who participated in the exhibition.
Malevich hung his square diagonally up in the corner of the wall under the ceiling of the room, where a Russian icon usually had its traditional place. Besides Malevich, the exhibitors included Vladimir Tatlin, Nadezhda Udaltsova, Lyubov Popova and Ivan Puni.
However, the exhibition, which received scathing reviews, marked the breakthrough to non-objective abstract art; the seminal event in art history did not receive the transnational attention at the time because war had broken out in Europe. Malevich was drafted into the tsarist army in 1916 and spent the time until the end of the war in a writing room. During this time he continued to work on his paintings as well as theoretical writings and corresponded with Matyushin. Although the Russian avant-garde groups held different theories, which led to controversy, under the harsh wartime conditions there were joint art exhibitions by the Suprematists under Malevich”s leadership and the Constructivists, whose leadership Tatlin held. Malevich, for example, at Tatlin”s request, provided older Cubo-Futurist works, such as An Englishman in Moscow, which were included in the latter”s exhibition Magasin in a Department Store, in a deliberate move away from them.
After the October Revolution of 1917, Malevich was entrusted with the supervision of the Kremlin”s national art collections. Thus he became chairman of the Art Department of the Moscow City Soviet and master at the second “Free State Art Workshop” (SWOMAS), as well as professor at the “Free State Art Workshops” in Petrograd. In the strict sense, he was neither a committed functionary nor a revolutionary; he merely used the new rulers to assert his artistic ambitions. His painting had gained acceptance in the art scene; for example, in the fall of 1918 he and Matyushin were commissioned to create the decoration for a congress on village poverty at the Winter Palace.
Invited by Marc Chagall to work in the folk art school he organized in 1918 (Pravdastr. 5), Kazimir Malevich arrived in Vitebsk in 1919. Malevich founded the group UNOWIS (Confirmers of New Art) there in 1920 and after a short time was able to gather many followers around him. His daughter Una was born, her name derived from the group of artists. Chagall, who had already lost the power struggle against Malevich in 1921 in the disputes over the artistic orientation of the school, emigrated to Paris via Berlin in 1922. Malevich was one of the authors of the short-lived magazine “Gegenstand” (Object), conceived by El Lissitzky and Ilja Ehrenburg, which was dedicated to the dialogue between artists of different nationalities.
Architect and graphic designer El Lissitzky was a member of the Institute; in his studio he designed, among other things, texts by Malevich such as Suprematism 34 Drawings (1920). During this historical period, under Malevich”s leadership, not only was the school itself, the teaching system, the cultural life of the city of Vitebsk changed, but it also influenced the wider art process of the world. During Malevich”s work in Vitebsk (Vitebsk period) the ideas of Suprematism were theoretically and conceptually complete. They needed a new milieu for development and for the multi-functional dialogue of renewal behavior towards life. Vitebsk, which at that time was called the second Paris, became this milieu. It was in Vitebsk that the idea of creating a museum of modern art by Marc Chagall was born and realized. Today this period is called “Vitebsk Renaissance” or “Vitebsk School”.
Teaching from 1922 to 1926
In April 1922, after disputes with the authorities fighting the Russian Avant-Garde, Malevich and a larger part of his students left Vitebsk for Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). In 1925, after the death of his second wife, he entered into a third marriage with Natalya Andreyevna Mankhenko. From 1924 to 1926 he was the head of the GINChUK. However, the regime-conformist artists” group AChRR by now dominated Soviet art culture – the Stalinist era had begun and with it the rejection of avant-garde art – so Malevich fell out of favor and lost his position in 1926. He therefore accepted employment at the State Institute of Art History.
Visit to Berlin and Dessau
In the spring of 1927 Malevich obtained a visa and traveled via Warsaw to Berlin, where 70 paintings and his Architektona, plaster models of his architectural designs, were shown at the van Diemen Gallery during the “Great Berlin Art Exhibition.” In Dessau he visited the Bauhaus and was able to arrange for the publication of his work Die gegenstandslose Welt, which was published as the eleventh volume in the series of Bauhaus books (founded by Walter Gropius and László Moholy-Nagy), albeit with a distanced preface by the editors. Moreover, passages were deleted from the text in which Malevich critically addressed the development of Soviet society. Thus, in his manuscript, he wrote of the “present phase of socialist, gluttonous comfort of life.” Contrary to his expectations, Malevich was received as an important representative of the Russian avant-garde, but at that time Russian Constructivism was closer to the Bauhaus than Suprematism, which in Germany, with its philosophical system of world knowledge, seemed outdated. In Dessau, they were looking for a way toward a design concept of the world, similar to the Dutch group De Stijl, whose co-founder Piet Mondrian, like Malevich, was an early master of abstraction. Mondrian”s Neoplasticism style, created in 1920, was influenced by Malevich”s emotional Suprematism.
In June, Malevich returned to Leningrad; in Germany, due to the uncertain political conditions in the Soviet Union, he left his writings with his host Gustav von Riesen and the works he had brought with him with the architect Hugo Häring, who kept them for Malevich. The planned revisit by Malevich never took place, so that the paintings were only rediscovered in 1951 and purchased by the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 1958 for around 120,000 marks. A settlement in May 2008 amicably resolved the years-long dispute between Malevich”s 37 heirs and the city of Amsterdam: The heirs received five important works by Malevich and in return accept that the remaining paintings remain from the collection of the city of Amsterdam. There they have been exhibited in the reopened Stedelijk Museum since 2009.
Return to figurative painting
Malevich resumed his work at the State Institute of Art History, drew up plans for satellite cities in Moscow, occupied himself with designs for porcelain, and endeavored to publish the results of his research. Seeking to revise his dogmatic views slightly, he was in search of new possibilities and paths for his art.
Malevich began to restore the essential works he had left behind in Germany by painting “improved” replicas; this also applied to Impressionist motifs. He backdated the works, which would later cause great confusion in art circles. The paintings served to complete his large exhibition of works, which was planned in 1929.
A radical change from the end of the 1920s in Malevich”s work was the return to figurative painting with suprematist elements; he put it at the service of the beloved peasants who suffered from the forced collectivization of agriculture, which was expressed in his new style. In his painting style, people gradually became mutilated dolls, prisoners of a criminal gulag.
He was forbidden to continue working at the State Institute for the History of Art in 1929, and the institute was closed a short time later. He was allowed to work at the Art Institute in Kiev for two weeks a month. In November of that year, he exhibited his works at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow on the occasion of a retrospective, but received mostly negative criticism. Shortly thereafter, the exhibition was transferred to Kiev, but was closed after only a few days. In 1930 Malevich was arrested and brought in for interrogation for two weeks.
In his last artistic phase, shortly before his death, he returned to painting “real” portraits, but these do not correspond to the style of “Socialist Realism”, but resemble works of the Renaissance, which is expressed in the clothing of the sitters. Characteristic of these paintings are the expressive gestures of the persons portrayed.
In 1932 he received the direction at a research laboratory of the Russian Museum in Leningrad, where he worked until his death. Despite the state order that banned avant-garde tendencies and demanded the style of Socialist Realism, his work was shown once again as part of the exhibition “Fifteen Years of Soviet Art”. From 1935, however, there were no more exhibitions of his works in the USSR; it was not until after perestroika that a comprehensive retrospective of Malevich”s works was held in St. Petersburg in 1988.
In 1935 Malevich died of cancer in Leningrad. His grave was located in Nemchinovka near Moscow on the grounds of his dacha, where a white cube designed by Nikolai Suetin with a black square on the front was placed. The grave site no longer exists today.
The early work
At the beginning of his artistic work, Malevich oriented himself to the innovations of European art at the beginning of the 20th century. Thus, he initially painted in the Impressionist style, taking Monet and later Cézanne as his models. His early work also included paintings in the Symbolist and Pointillist styles. Many elements of Russian folk art Lubok can be found in his prints. The Peasant”s Head from 1911 is an example of the frequent use of the peasant, colorful Russian motifs. It was exhibited at the second exhibition of the Blaue Reiter in Munich.
Primitivism, Cubofuturism, Alogism
Kazimir Malevich”s artistic development in the run-up to Suprematism (until 1915) is defined by three main phases: Primitivism, Cubofuturism, and Alogism.In Primitivism from 1910 to about 1912, highly simplified, two-dimensional forms and expressive coloring predominated. The pictorial themes were related to everyday scenes; an example of this is Bathers from 1911.
In contrast to Primitivism, Cubo-Futurism, a Russian variation of French Cubism and Italian Futurism, involved a return to traditional forms of Russian folk art. Malevich used basic Cubist-oriented forms such as cones, spheres, and cylinders to depict figures and their surroundings; color, often earth-toned, served increasingly to emphasize plasticity. In many paintings of this period, he broke down the surface into facets.
In the third phase followed the so-called alogical paintings. Traditional pictorial meanings were replaced by alogical compositions of numbers, letters, word fragments and figures. One example is the painting An Englishman in Moscow from 1914.
The Prehistory of Suprematism explains Malevich”s radical move to the non-objective style of Suprematism by showing the juxtaposition, brief application of different styles, and break with the logic of pictorial content.
The Suprematist Work from 1915
The most famous of his paintings is the suprematist The Black Square on a White Ground from 1915, with which Malevich reached a climax through the abstraction begun in Cubism. In his manifesto accompanying the exhibition “(0,10)” Malevich denied any relationship of art and its representations to nature. He thus left behind even the then current tendencies of the avant-garde, for Cubism did not demand the absolute non-objectivity of pictorial content, as Malevich now applied it in his works. The structure of the Black Square was created by small impressionist brushstrokes, not with a ruler and a uniform color surface; the edges of the square are frayed. In 1923 and 1929, he would create more paintings with the Black Square theme. Also in 1915 he painted The Red Square. A yellow parallelogram on white was followed in 1919 by White Square, a white square on a white ground, which concluded the square series. In his Suprematist paintings, apart from black and white, one finds the basic colors of the palette: red, blue, yellow and green.
Describing the three phases of Suprematism in his Suprematism 34 Drawings, Malevich explained the significance of his monochrome squares as follows: “As self-knowledge in the purely utilitarian completion of the ”all-man” in the general sphere of life, they have acquired a further meaning: the black as a sign of economy, the red as a signal of revolution, and the white as pure effect.”
Malevich was not only concerned with an art form, but also with a new attitude to life, which he described with the expression “excitement. Thus his writing for the 1915 exhibition ends with the words: “I have cut through the knots of wisdom and liberated the consciousness of color. I have overcome the impossible and made the abysses my breath. But you wriggle in the nets of the horizon like fish! We, the Suprematists, pave the way for you. Hurry up! Because already tomorrow you will no longer recognize us.”
From the static stage of his paintings of squares, he moved on to the dynamic, or cosmic stage, shown, for example, in Eight Rectangles and Airplane in Flight, both paintings created in 1915. Through his new art form, Malevich came to think that mankind could dominate not only earthly space, but also the cosmos. In his 1920 paper Suprematism 34 Drawings, he mentioned the possibilities of interplanetary flight and Earth satellites (Sputniks).
The art historian Werner Haftmann quoted the artist”s interpretation of his own creation of Suprematism within the framework of art history in his work Painting in the 20th Century: “He brought painting to zero through the total negation of all sources of opacity; what remained was the simplest geometric element – the square on the pure surface. It was not a ”picture” what Malevich had made there, it was, as he himself said, ”rather the experience of pure non-objectivity”. The expressive and descriptive aspects of abstract expressionism disappeared, the constructive gained the upper hand, with elementary and absolute forms painting could be experienced as architecture and pure harmony based in itself. The square on the surface was not only a spontaneous symbol of the ”experience of non-objectivity”, it also proved to be the first building block of an absolute painting.”
The late work
After his return from Berlin and Dessau in 1927, Malevich occasionally returned to Impressionist motifs, into which he integrated Suprematist elements and which he predated to the period from 1903, as he wanted to supplement his exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery in 1929 with the paintings left behind in Berlin. He wrote down his thoughts on the reinterpretation of Impressionism in his paper Isology, a concept of art that he had invented himself, like Suprematism, for example, and passed them on to his followers in lectures.
When his late work was released from Russian depots 20 years ago, there was criticism that the painter of radical abstraction had become a renegade of the avant-garde. In his post-Suprematist works of the 1930s, in fact, Malevich returned to figurative painting; peasant scenes were his preferred motifs. From within the system of Suprematism, Malevich constructed a new symbolic image of man that was far removed from any realism. He referred to the figures as “Budetljanje” (“Future People”): his peasants increasingly become robots without faces, without beards, and later without arms. The premonition about the destruction of the peasant world by collectivization led Malevich to declare that he did not paint a face “because he did not see the man of the future” or rather that “the future of man was a mystery that could not be fathomed”.
Motifs of Suprematism appear, for example, in the form of the square in windowless houses. The painting Head of a Peasant contains four Suprematist forms, of which the two squares forming the beard can be called the plowshares. But the head is also an icon (beloved by Malevich), a portrait reminiscent of a peasant Christ figure. In the sky there are planes, reminiscent of birds as bad harbingers; they have come to destroy the freedom and traditional culture of the peasants.
Malevich”s last phase, which he called “Supranaturalism,” largely depicts women as portraits of the new man in naturalistic form, belonging to another world, a future world. One example is the worker woman as a member of a new religion, a mother and child depiction in which the missing child is replaced by the arm position, communicating with this coded gesture. The best known example of this last phase is his 1933 self-portrait, shown above in the introduction. Malevich depicts himself dressed as a Renaissance painter, his hand forming the absent square. His Black Square forms the signature. Malevich thus summarizes the history of his painting with the message that the life of man can be reduced to a gesture.
Architektone, product design
From 1923 Malevich was engaged in architectural studies; his spatial projects called Architektons, plaster models in suprematist form, had not met with approval from the Bauhaus architects in 1927 and were also at odds with Tatlin and his group in Petrograd. Housing estates for outer space (Planites) and satellite cities (Semlyanites) were a theme within his studies, which he described as “architectural formulas according to which the shape can be given to architectural formations.” Malevich was also concerned with product design and created porcelain services in the Constructivist style.
In 1927 Malevich summarized his reflections in the Bauhaus book The Non-Objective World; it was his only book publication during his lifetime in Germany. The concept of “sensation”, which was important to him and which already appeared in the texts of the Vitebsk period, was most clearly described in the Bauhaus writing: “By Suprematism I understand the Supremacy of pure sensation in the visual arts. From the standpoint of Suprematism, the phenomena of representational nature are in themselves meaningless; what is essential is sensation – as such, quite independent of the environment in which it was evoked.” And Malevich himself grounded the theme of his late work in this: “The mask of life obscures the true face of art. Art is not to us what it could be to us.”
In addition to his other art theoretical writings listed below, Malevich wrote several essays on film and a screenplay between 1925 and 1929. There is a publication The White Rectangle. Schriften zum Film (1997), which for the most part contains texts available in German for the first time; they ” lead to the center of the debate about movement and acceleration as a central metaphor of modernity in the international avant-garde. Malevich arranges the melodramas with Mary Pickford, the comedies with Monty Banks, the films of Sergei Eisenstein, Dsiga Wertov, Walter Ruttmann, and Yakov Protasanov into his historical model of the emergence of modernism from Cézanne through Cubism, Futurism – to Suprematism. Almost all of his essays deal with the missed rendezvous between film and art. For Malevich conceives of film not as a perfection of naturalism, but as principles of the new painting: dynamism and non-objectivity.”
For a complete overview, see List of works by Kazimir Malevich.
The most extensive collections of Malevich”s works are on display at the Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.A larger collection of Malevich”s works outside Russia is held by the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and the State Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki.
Effect during lifetime
The first reaction to Black Square in the exhibition “0.10” in 1915 was clearly negative: it was an affront to the academic and realistic way of painting; critics reviled the picture as the “dead square”, the “personified nothing”. The art historian and Malevich opponent Alexander Benois, writing in the Petrograd newspaper “The Language,” called it “the very, very most cunning trick in the fairground stall of the very latest art.” The Russian writer Dmitry Merezhkovsky joined in the condemnation, speaking of the “invasion of bullies in culture.” Vladimir Tatlin”s no less revolutionary corner reliefs got off almost scot-free. Possibly this was based on the fact that Malevich had created many enemies through polemical appearances at public events. To attract attention, Malevich and his students wore red cooking spoons instead of decorative scarves in the breast pocket of their jackets, which were cut as yellow smocks. Despite all the criticism, Suprematism began to gain acceptance because there was not yet a binding art doctrine “from above” in Russia and friends and followers supported Malevich”s claim to leadership within the avant-garde as well as his novel painting.
Marc Chagall, who was defeated by Malevich in the dispute over the leadership of the art school in Vitebsk, wrote resignedly to Pavel D. Ettinger in 1920: “The movement has reached its boiling point. A conspiratorial group of students has formed around Malevich, another around me. We both belong to the Left, but have completely different ideas of its aims and methods.”
On his trip to Berlin and Dessau in 1927, Malevich had not correctly assessed the development of art in Germany, for it was primarily Constructivism and the Bauhaus that determined the direction there. Thus he expressed, “It seems to me that Suprematism is presented here for the first time as the final end for all Constructivism and as the basis of life The work in Germany is good because all this is now becoming known throughout the world.” At the Bauhaus, he met only briefly with director Walter Gropius and expressed a desire to remain in Germany. It is possible that he hoped to find new teaching positions at the Bauhaus after his dismissal. Malevich, however, was unsuccessful with his visit and left again. The only yield was the publication of his paper The Non-Objective World (192728). However, the editor, László Moholy-Nagy, had clearly noted in the preface: “We are pleased to be able to publish the present work of the important Russian painter Malevich, although it deviates from our point of view in fundamental questions.”
Wassily Kandinsky wrote in the Cahiers d”Art in 1931: “The meeting of the acute angle of a triangle with a circle is of no less effect than the contact between the finger of God and Adam in Michelangelo”.
Voices on the late work
Hans-Peter Riese, Malevich”s biographer, commented on the problem of pre-dated pictures. Malevich”s reception history had to be rewritten when the Iron Curtain was lifted in the 1980s and his late works from 1927 could be shown in the West. His artistic transformation caused great astonishment, as it was contrary to the previously known high point of his work, abstract Suprematism, in its return to figurative painting. The first cataloging was done according to the dating of the paintings, which Malevich himself had done. The Impressionist-influenced paintings were included in the first decade of the last century, as the artist had labeled them. In fact, however, most of these works were created only in the thirties. At that time, Malevich practically reconstructed his early work and brought forward the dating, as research by the Bulgarian art historian Andrei Nakov, who published Malevich”s complete catalog in 2002 and is considered the leading Malevich researcher, has revealed.
Sebastian Egenhofer in the introduction of an art historical seminar on Malevich”s late work: “Malevich calls the figurative painting of the past “fodder trogrealism”, because it conceives and represents the “non-objective excitement” only in the horizon of hunger, of practical interest, i.e. as representationalism. Malevich”s figurative late work, which emerges after various attempts from 1928 onwards, would, on the other hand, be a “feed trogrealism” that understands itself. Malevich finds the suprematist color fields – the next spatial representation of the “non-objective excitement” in the cutting plane of the abstract paintings of the decade – in the earth and the fields of the peasants. The reflection internal to painting is intertwined with a cosmological-economic one. Non-objectivity is the giving nature (not the appearing nature) in the grasp of “agribusiness” as a kind of abstract painting.”
Malevich”s influence on contemporary and later artists
The painter and sculptor Imi Knoebel reported on his Düsseldorf years as a student in the early 1960s: “At that time, this book came out, Die Gegenstandslose Welt by Malevich, his texts. We were fascinated by the Black Square. For us, that was the phenomenon that had completely taken us in, that was the real envelope. With that awareness, we really peddled Malevich.” Around the same time, Blinky Palermo, a Beuys student like Knoebel, painted his 1964 composition with eight red rectangles, his first geometric painting. His prototypes also seem like childlike illustrations of Malevich”s fundamental work.
The exhibition Das schwarze Quadrat – Hommage an Malewitsch (The Black Square – Homage to Malevich), which opened in Hamburg in spring 2007 and for which the installation artist Gregor Schneider had designed a cube draped in black fabric, the Cube Hamburg 2007, on the forecourt of the Hamburger Kunsthalle, was a crowd puller. Since the black cube is reminiscent not only of the Black Square, but also of the Muslim Kaaba in Mecca, terrorist attacks were feared, but did not occur. The painting The Black Square was exhibited in the version from 1923.
Heiko Klaas summed up the strong influence of Malevich on his contemporaries and the following generations of artists in the Spiegel: “If one follows the thesis of the exhibition, the Black Square helped to initiate at least every other art and design movement of the 20th century. It appears on textile designs as well as on Russian railroad cars and store signs. Malevich”s contemporaries, El Lissitzky and Alexander Rodchenko, peppered their Constructivist graphics, architectural designs, and spatial constructions with derivatives and variants. Artists of American Minimal Art and Conceptual Art such as Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and Sol LeWitt multiplied the square and created serial sculptures from readily available industrial materials such as steel. They, too, were concerned with an elementary formal language. They thus radically distanced themselves from the gestural painting of their time, Action Painting and Abstract Expressionism.”
On the occasion of the Hamburg exhibition, the newspaper Die Welt named other artists who oriented their works to the black square and paid tribute to the “master of the abstract” by quoting their work: “Samuel Beckett had hooded men walking in a square, Noriyuki Haraguchi filled tubs with black waste oil, Günther Uecker nailed in a square, Reiner Ruthenbeck tried to brighten up a black square with spotlights, while Sigmar Polke painted a picture with a black corner and wrote on the edge: ”Higher beings ordered: paint upper right corner black! “”
On the occasion of the Malevich exhibition in Die Zeit, Petra Kipphoff quotes the pathetic words of the artist in a 1918 letter to the Russian painter, art historian, and editor of the art magazine Mir Iskusstva, Alexander Benois: “I have painted the naked icon of my time … the royal in its wordlessness”. Kipphoff describes the effect of the painting on the viewer: “And when one approaches the painting, the Black Square also unfolds its royal wordless, iconic effect. Nothing can be glimpsed on this intensely and slightly bumpy painted canvas, but it is precisely in this non-objective excitement (a word that, just like ”sensation,” is often used by Malevich) that any insight is possible.”
German conceptual artist and furniture designer Rafael Horzon produced so-called “wall decor” objects starting in 2002. These were black and white squares sold at a price of 50 euros each. Horzon refuses to call his work art, referring to Marcel Duchamp”s readymade process. While Duchamp”s innovation at the beginning of the 20th century consisted in declaring everyday objects to be art, Horzon”s innovation at the beginning of the 21st century, for art critic Peter Richter, consisted in refusing to designate things that were perceived as art as art. Horzon describes himself as an entrepreneur.
In the late 1940s, George Costakis began collecting works by Malevich and other artists of the Russian avant-garde and researching the life and environment of the artist, who was ostracized in his homeland.
Gilles Néret, Malevich”s biographer, counts the artist among the four most important protagonists of 20th century modern art, summing up in the introduction to his book Malevich: “Baudelaire posed the question: ”What is modernity?” It took some time for the four protagonists and pillars of 20th century art to answer the poet”s question: Picasso, by atomizing forms; Matisse, by emancipating color; Duchamp, by inventing the “ready-made” to destroy the work of art; and Malevich, by bringing into the world – like a crucifix – his iconic Black Square on a White Ground.”
On the occasion of his 140th birthday in 2019, the National Bank of Ukraine issued a commemorative 2 hryvnia coin in his honor.