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."
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.
Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013
Malevich made paintings that focus on shapes, colors, and brushwork. He believed that art doesn’t need to show the world exactly as we see it. In this artwork he painted two shapes on a white background. What do you notice about the shapes and how Malevich arranged them?
Take a look at the painting’s title. Which shape might be the “boy,” and which could be the “knapsack,” or backpack? Imagine what else the shapes could be or represent.
Kids label from 2019, updated in 2023