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Malevich: The Black Square

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Dan Coombs, Robert Linsley, and Robin Greenwood reflect on Kazimir Malevich's painting, The Black Square, on the occasion of the exhibition Malevich at Tate Modern, London, on view through October 26, 2014.

Coombs: "… in all of Malevich’s suprematist paintings … awkwardness and misalignment seems to activate the whole field of the painting. In Black Square, the misaligned edges activate the white border as a whole field, so it becomes a positive. Malevich’s paintings, whilst made of simple elements, are extremely complex in their internal relationships."

Linsley: "… the handmadeness of Malevich’s Black Square, though it may seem a charming remnant of the naive beginnings of abstraction, is also very progressive, because it is ordinary. Geometric perfection or absolute flatness is too idealistic, and stresses the concept, something better off lost. Hand-made but not subjective or expressive, that is still the right way for abstraction."

Greenwood: " 'Black Square' is a regrettable artistic gesture without content, a piece of conceptual art second only to Duchamp’s urinal in terms of the damage inflicted upon the direction and health of painting and sculpture. Malevich himself never recovered from this self-inflicted wound. What came after was further a disappointment, for us and for him; endless variations on a theme of architectonic rectangles on a white background, few instances of which amount to anything more than the rather mean sum of their parts."

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