March 31, 2003 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Happy birthday, Kasimir Malevich! The Guggenheim has curated an exhibition (currently in Berlin and coming to New York in May) to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the birth of this Russian avant-garde painter who, among other things, was a major influence on El Lissitzky and worked alongside Liubov Popova. The story of how the show itself came to be -- featuring many works never before seen in the West -- makes for rather dramatic reading, to boot. (NYTimes link; reg. req.) [more inside]
posted by scody (8 comments total)
Initially a Cubo-Futurist, Malevich developed a geometric abstract style around 1914 that called Suprematism (which was related to Constructivism though less overtly political) and also drew heavily on elements of traditional Russian folk art in his less abstract work. He was jailed in 1930 under Stalin's ruthless suppression of the avant-garde movements of the teens and '20s, and died in 1935. I know I'm not the only MeFite who's crazy about this period of modernism; previous threads have had wonderful discussions and links about the Russian Constructivists as well as the Italian Futurists.
posted by scody at 1:24 PM on March 31, 2003

Dagnabbit! Here's the proper link for the Futurist thread.
posted by scody at 1:36 PM on March 31, 2003

While it is thrilling to contemplate Malevich's life and times, and there is no question that his artistic achievement was without precedent, nonetheless, the work of Malevich, along with Marcel Duchamp's doodads, marked the end of Western painting as anything that could possibly be enjoyed by a human being with two brain cells. The problem with Malevich's work was that it was so EASY, every artist in the world said, "Hey, I can do that!" And for the next 100 years, artists have been boring us to tears with the statement and restatement of Malevich's and Duchamp's breakthroughs, presenting them each time as if they were utterly fresh and brand new. So Malevich's achievement might be stated as "One giant step for a Russian painter, and one great disaster for art as a whole."
posted by Faze at 1:47 PM on March 31, 2003

If you're looking for more stories about how Russian art made it out of Russia, John McPhee has a lovely, well-illustrated book called The Ransom of Russian Art about the nonconformist underground art style and painters and the quirky guy who collected and exported it.
posted by jessamyn at 2:01 PM on March 31, 2003

Kasimir Malevich... El Lissitzky...Cubo-Futurist... Suprematism... Constructivism ... couldn't make it up.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:01 PM on March 31, 2003

And a happy birthday to Christopher Walken as well. But this link is cool too.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:21 PM on March 31, 2003

Excellent links scody, and thanks for taking the time to link back to related threads. And jessamyn, thanks for the pointer to a McPhee book - I love his writing, but have never seen this book.
posted by madamjujujive at 9:44 PM on March 31, 2003

Although Malevich is often credited as the originator of monochrome painting, with his Black Square of 1918, on today, of all days, we shouldn't forget the pioneering monochromatic work of French artist Alphonse Allais (from his Album Primo-Avrilesque) dating from some twenty years earlier...
posted by misteraitch at 12:20 AM on April 1, 2003

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