Kasimir Malevich

Russian painter, born near Kiev and trained there and in Moscow.

He associated with Larionov and Goncharova, participating in their 1910-1912 exhibitions and sharing their interest in primitivism.

He had worked in symbolist and impressionist ways; now he developed a folk-art-based style of dynamic, simplified forms and strong colors for representations of peasants that look iconic and may be symbolic, e.g. The Woodcutter (1912).

In 1912-14, he was a member of the Union of Youth, and at this time explored aspects of cubism, bringing painted forms and scraps of paper and other extraneous material together to form synthetic compositions of a certainly symbolical sort. He used collage and painted rectangles of color to hide the figures announced in some of his titles, as in Woman at the Poster Column (1914).

He called such work ‘alogism’, associating it with the anti-rational use of language explored by the Russian Futurist poets.

In 1913, he worked with the poet Kruchenykh and the painter-musician Matyushin on an opera performed that December, Victory over the Sun, for which he designed costumes and backdrops.

From these sprang suprematism, developed during 1915 and launched in December /January 1915-16 in Petrograd when he showed 39 suprematist paintings in the Zero-Ten exhibition.

His room was dominated by the Black Square, hung like an icon high up across a corner, among other paintings of squares, rectangles forming broad crosses, circles, and then also more complex and numerous forms, all apparently floating within a white space, flat geometrical forms mostly without indications of mass and painted in black or simple colors.

These abstract paintings refer us to a new reality, cosmic and spiritual, and to the ‘higher consciousness’ to which Peter Uspensky in Petrograd and others in the West drew attention as the next stage in human evolution.

Malevich joined faith in this with a form of deism; his paintings, partly derived from icons, reflect traditional Russian piety. He published a statement and lectured during the exhibition, and showed the paintings again in Moscow.

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