Traveling Exhibit of Russian Artist K. Malevich

Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism will open at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on May 13, following its critically acclaimed presentation at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin, where it was seen by a record 70,000 visitors. The exhibition, which was co-organized by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and The Menil Collection, Houston, will be on view at the Guggenheim through September 7, 2003. The exhibition will be installed in Tower 4 Gallery and Thannhauser 4 Gallery. Following the Guggenheim presentation, Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism will be presented at The Menil Collection from October 3, 2003, through January 11, 2004. This exhibition is sponsored in New York by Alfa Bank. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Additional support is provided by Axsel Motors BMW, the International Business Club MBK, and the Leadership Council. nbsp; Kazimir Malevich has long been celebrated as one of the seminal founders of nonobjective art in the 20th century. Between 1915 and 1932, he developed a system of abstract painting called Suprematism, an art of pure form meant to be universally comprehensible regardless of cultural or ethnic origin. Like his contemporaries Piet Mondrian and Vasily Kandinsky, Malevich created an artistic utopia that became the secular equivalent of religious painting-in his case intending to replace the ubiquitous icon of the Russian home-creating works meant to evoke higher states of spiritual consciousness.

Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism is the first exhibition to focus exclusively on this defining moment in the artist’s career. The exhibition brings together approximately 120 paintings, drawings, and objects drawn from major public and private collections around the world. Included in the exhibition are works that have never been shown in the West before, including several recently rediscovered masterpieces.

The exhibition opens with a group of paintings and drawings from 1913-14, which Malevich called “Alogisms,” works composed of abstract signs, symbols, shapes, and word fragments that form a bridge between his prior Cubist phase and the breakthrough to nonobjective art. That watershed occurred in 1915, when he painted a simple black square on a white field, setting in motion a series of artworks that became the focal point for the pre-Revolutionary years of the Russian avant-garde. Other works from this period show the artist exploring the expressive potential of this simple form, such as Four Squares, Black Cross, Extended Square, or Painterly Realism. Gradually his vocabulary evolved to include other forms in simple opposition, and it is here that drawing also became an important medium in his expanding formulation of Suprematism. The exhibition will, for the first time, demonstrate the importance of drawing to his broader oeuvre, in part through the presentation of works that have never been exhibited or published before.

Malevich’s formulation of Suprematism evolved quickly. By late 1915-16, it had shifted from an aesthetic of static composition into an ever more dynamic realm, exemplifying his desire to visually render different states of feeling and “n-dimensionality.” By 1917, however, he had returned to a vocabulary of simplicity, but this time anchored in less concrete form. The works are ethereal and seem to dissolve into imaginary space. Other works serve as an extensive dissertation on subtle transformation, as in his masterpiece White Square on White,which would inspire a whole generation of contemporary artists in Europe and the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s.

Suprematism was also deployed into the realm of the practical as Malevich experimented with it as a means for social transformation through radical architectural form evident in plaster studies he called “Architektons.” He also engaged in political art, conforming to the need to serve a new political reality while trying to remain faithful to his aesthetics, as well as venturing into the decorative and applied arts, like so many of his comrades and students.

But Malevich essentially remains a painter, and one who was completely devoted to the spiritual in art. This adherence to the metaphysical during a time of increasingly volatile social upheaval in Russia, where art became increasingly tied to the rigors of political process, ultimately led to the artist’s isolation from the artistic vanguard. By the late 1920s, he folded Suprematism into an investigation of the figure, before completely abandoning it in 1932 for an art steeped in Renaissance portraiture. The exhibition closes with a small group of these Suprematist figures, the studies for which definitively link them to the abstract system of the preceding 15 years.

The exhibition has been organized by Matthew Drutt, Chief Curator, The Menil Collection. Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism is accompanied by a fully illustrated, 272-page publication, published by the Guggenheim Museum and distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. The catalogue includes essays by Matthew Drutt, Nina Gurianova, Jean-Claude Marcade, Tatiana Mikhienko, Yevgenia Petrova, and Vasilii Rakitin, as well as a selection of the artist’s letters, essays, and diary entries.


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