Black Square: Social – Transformations, Tom Chambers

Black Square Cross Revolution

In 1915, Kazimir Malevich laid down the foundations of Suprematism when he published his manifesto, From Cubism to Suprematism. In 1915/1916 he worked with other Suprematist artists in a peasant/artisan co-operative in Skoptsi and Verbovka village. Malevich exhibited his first “Black Square” at the “Last Futurist Exhibition 0,10” in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) in 1915. A black square placed against the sun appeared for the first time in the 1913 scenery designs for the Futurist opera, “Victory over the Sun”.

After the October Revolution (1917), Malevich became a member of the Collegium on the Arts of Narkompros, the Commission for the Protection of Monuments and the Museums Commission (all from 1918/1919). He taught at the Vitebsk Practical Art School in the USSR (now part of Belarus) (1919-1922), the Leningrad Academy of Arts (1922-1927), the Kiev State Art Institute (1927-1929), and the House of the Arts in Leningrad (1930).

He wrote the book, The World as Non-Objectivity, which was published in Munich in 1926 and translated into English in 1959. In it, he outlines his Suprematist theories.

In 1923, Malevich was appointed director of Petrograd State Institute of Artistic Culture. He painted his “Black Cross” the same year. The institute was forced to close in 1926 after a Communist party newspaper called it “a government-supported monastery” rife with “counterrevolutionary sermonizing and artistic debauchery.” The Soviet state was by then heavily promoting a politically sustainable style of art called Socialist Realism, a style Malevich had spent his entire career repudiating.

Malevich’s assumption that a shifting in the attitudes of the Soviet authorities toward the modernist art movement would take place after the death of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky’s fall from power was proven correct in a couple of years, when the Stalinist regime turned against forms of abstraction, considering them a type of “bourgeois” art, that could not express social realities. As a consequence, many of his works were confiscated and he was banned from creating and exhibiting similar art.

Critics derided Malevich’s art as a negation of everything good and pure: love of life and love of nature. The Westernizer artist and art historian Alexandre Benois was one such critic. Malevich responded that art can advance and develop for art’s sake alone, saying, “art does not need us, and it never did”.

Black Square TransFORMations

This project is a video of kinetic forms within Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” zone. They are in keeping with some of his Suprematist forms that seem to float and simulate aerial views. Malevich states: “The square changes and creates new forms, the elements of which can be classified in one way or another depending upon the feeling which gave rise to them.”

“Black Square TransFORMations”, “Black Square Interpretations and Other Suprematist Explorations” (two-person show with Max Semakov), CaviArt Gallery, Russian Cultural Center, Houston, Texas, March 6 – April 7, 2015.

Black Square Desecration

Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” (1915) receives glitch treatment – perceived as “desecration” – and perhaps embraced by this Suprematist if he were alive today. Suprematism is based upon “the supremacy of pure artistic feeling” (sensation), and the kinetic glitch treatment enhances these emotions via pixel reconfigurations, the introduction of color fields and movement. The sound component complements the feeling. This video piece could be viewed as Neo-Suprematism.

“Black Square Desecration” (“Black Square Interpretations”), Official Selection for Viewing, Experimental Animation and Video Art Program, LINOLEUM International Contemporary Animation and Media-Art Festival, Ukraine, September 28 – October 1, 2017.

Beyond Black Square

This project is a video that moves Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” to the next level – Neosuprematism. It also simulates the evolution of the bar code system.

“This was no ’empty square’ which I had exhibited but rather the feeling of non-objectivity. I realized that the ‘thing’ and the ‘concept’ were substituted for feeling and understood the falsity of the world of will and idea. Suprematism is the rediscovery of pure art which, in the course of time, had become obscured by the accumulation of ‘things’. But the nature and meaning of artistic creation continue to be misunderstood, as does the nature of creative work in general, because feeling, after all, is always and everywhere the one and only source of every creation. The emotions which are kindled in the human being are stronger than the human being himself – they must at all costs find an outlet, they must take on overt form, they must be communicated or put to work.”

Kazimir Malevich

“Moving Malevich’s ‘Black Square’ beyond – particularly in kinetic form – compounds the feeling of non-objectivity. The ‘Black Square’ becomes the void in piecemeal fashion releasing those emotions that he refers to as being ‘kindled in the human being’ to even a higher degree. They have indeed ‘found an outlet’ and ‘taken on overt form’ – Neosuprematism.”

Tom R. Chambers

Bourgeois Black Square

This project is a video/installation piece re: the Stalinist regime that turned against forms of abstraction, considering them a type of “bourgeois” art, that could not express social realities. Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” was considered such, and many of his works were confiscated. He was also banned from creating and exhibiting similar art.

Critics of the regime spoke of Malevich and his art with contempt stating that his work was a negation of everything good and pure, love of life and love of nature. Malevich responded that art can advance and develop for art’s sake alone, saying, “art does not need us, and it never did,” thus the premise for this video/installation piece.

  1. Avatar photo
    Nazar Niazmetov

    Dear Tom, thank you for preparing such voluminous and detailed messages!
    I suppose that we don’t imagine well those social and intellectual changes what happened during last 100 years. Malevich will help us. And your posts too!

    1. Tom R. Chambers

      Thank you.

    2. Tom R. Chambers

      Thank you for your comment.

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