Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013
Curator, Ann Temkin: Suprematism, the system of art-making founded by Kazimir Malevich, debuted in 1915 at The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0,10 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The 10 in the title refers to the number of artists originally slated for the exhibition.
Curator, Leah Dickerman: Zero was a key image for the artist, who thought about taking everything back to nothing, and then beginning over again. He insisted that we will go beyond zero and explore new types of meaning that could not be achieved through conventional forms of representation.
Ann Temkin: In one room of the exhibition, Malevich created a display of his newest work, stacked from low to high. And in one corner, in the place where traditional icons or an image of the Virgin usually hung in peasant homes, he placed a black square.
Leah Dickerman: The pictures were radically new, the background was no longer a background in any traditional sense of the word. It was an expanse of white. And on this white field were colored geometric forms that were no longer tied in any way to representation in the world. It was perhaps the most resolute rejection of subject matter yet seen.
Abstract pictures were rarely seen in isolation. But rather they were accompanied by manifestos, by explanatory lectures, by criticism, by books. Malevich issued two publications at the time of the exhibition, a catalog and a handout. This may be one of the most far-reaching legacies of abstraction, that dual channel in which words and images are held together and circulate in relationship to each other.
Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925
December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013
In December 1915, at the Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings 0.10 (zero-ten) in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg), Malevich unveiled a radically new mode of abstract painting that abandoned all reference to the outside world in favor of colored geometric shapes floating against white backgrounds. Because his new style claimed supremacy over the forms of nature, he called it "Suprematism." In a leaflet distributed at the exhibition, Malevich wrote, "I transformed myself in the zero of form, I destroyed the ring of the horizon and escaped from the circle of things, from the horizon-ring that confines the artist and forms of nature." All of the works on this wall were included in this landmark show. Since Suprematism rejected the deliberate illusions of representational painting, Malevich saw it as a form of realism—"new painterly realism" was his term—and understood its subject to be the basic components of painting’s language, such as color, line, and brushwork. The basic units of this visual vocabulary were planes, stretched, rotated, and overlapping. For Malevich, the white backgrounds against which they were set mapped the boundless space of the ideal.