Kazimir Malevich. Suprematist Composition: White on White. 1918 512

Oil on canvas, 31 1/4 x 31 1/4" (79.4 x 79.4 cm). 1935 Acquisition confirmed in 1999 by agreement with the Estate of Kazimir Malevich and made possible with funds from the Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest (by exchange)

Leah Dickerman: Kazimir Malevich's Suprematist Composition: White on White was painted the year after the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Malevich was one of the first artists to create works that stepped away completely from trying to make images of the visible world. And in this work you can see that Malevich is pushing the limits of the possibility of abstraction. A white form glides on a white expanse at the very threshold of visibility. And color is minimized although it's still present. You can see that there's two very different forms of white in the composition. And the surface is very worked. So white is a way of taking away, minimizing color itself and actually focusing on the material of painting.

You see the touch of the brush again and again and you can see that it's very much a picture about the process of painting.

Malevich breaks with the use of perspective that traditional tool to create the illusion of dimensional depth in the work of art although there is a kind of spatial sense that's created by skewing the square form in the center of the composition and the way it's layered over the slightly warmer white ground.

This was painted a year after the Russian Revolution. And you can understand it as part of an effort to create a new visual language for a new world.

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