Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) was a game-changer in the true sense of the word. He broke the rules and re-imagined art, changing its course forever. He pushed the boundaries and has inspired others to do so ever since. It is often said that his “Black Square” gave licence to the unthinkable, giving artists the permission to move outside previously established artistic conventions.
The exhibition offers the opportunity to see and understand why Malevich was considered such a radical artist and how he influenced modern art so profoundly. For me the exhibition was a wonderful “aha” moment, it provided a clear lens through which to see art’s ability to question, to push the norms, to drive purpose and create disruption.
The exhibition is a retrospective of Malevich’s career and brings together a remarkable selection of his works from major international collections. Three themes are explored: the evolution of Malevich’s work; its ties to the period in which he lived – the political upheaval and social transformations; and the nature of art itself. Malevich’s most famous work and the one that is credited as the redefining moment in art history, is the “Black Square”. It was first shown in 1915 at The Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 in St Petersburg. Malevich said that the exhibition marked “the beginning of a new culture” that he called “Suprematism”. One of the coups of the Tate’s exhibition is the recreation of Malevich’s display at the legendary 0.10 exhibition. The Tate has managed to bring together nine of the original twelve paintings he displayed and from a single surviving photo they have created the look and feel of the original room. This room is the fulcrum of the exhibition; in the rooms before it we see Malevich’s journey towards abstract painting. After, his iconic Suprematist compositions, the geometric shapes with colour at their heart and a spellbinding balance of order and chaos. We gradually see Malevich abandoning painting for teaching, returning to the easel around 1927 when he blends figuration and abstraction to great effect. There is a rich dense feeling to his paintings and they seem to ask the viewer to see more and explore their meaning. This is as true for paintings such as the “Red Square” and “White Suprematist Cross” as it is for the geometric shapes compositions and his later figurative work.
Photo credits: Photography is from the Tate Modern via Google images.