The Black Square

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Malevich, The Black Square, 1915 
By MEGAN GANNON

For the purpose of this blog post I ask you to ignore the Rothko vibe The Black Square gives off and believe in Malevich for a little while. Kazimir Malevich, the artist behind the Suprematist movement, attempted to reduce art to what he called “zero form.”  Malevich started the suprematist movement on the cusp of the Boshevilick Revolution in Russia and painted The Black Square in 1915 to demonstrate the hope he felt communism possessed. 

According to Malevich suprematism existed in three levels black, colored, and white. For Malevich his journey started with black. You may look at his painting and simply see a black square with a white border, but I urge you to imagine more.

Malevich first displayed The Black Square in a Moscow exhibition in 1915. Placing the painting in the corner of the room, a place usually reserved for Russian religious icons. With his strategic placement Malevich made a statement about his geometric art. An opinion that he translated as “only with the disappearance of a habit of mind which sees in pictures little corners, madonnas and shameless Venuses, shall we witness a work of pure, living art”.

To Malevich his white border messed with the perception of the painting, forcing the observer to not find meaning in a single tree or misplaced flower, but to appreciate art in true form.

Unfortunately Malevich’s dreams of communism came to a crashing halt with leaders like Stalin and Lenin. With the new regime eventually banning his artwork after his death. A tragic ending for a man who believed whole-heartedly in their cause.

Today some will critique
The Black Square as piece of communist propaganda or a mediocre Rothko, but then there will be those who recognize the power of the image. The immense amount of hope it possesses and how one man altered the course of modern art with a square and some black paint. 

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