21 February 2014, 12:43

Malevich’s Black Square: key work of the 20th century

Malevich’s Black Square: key work of the 20th century
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Not only Malevich’s works have become symbols recognizable throughout the world, but the artist's life itself continues to inspire many references featuring events and his paintings as players. Literature is just one of the art fields we have to thank for making Malevich a true pop icon.

Thus, the smuggling of Malevich paintings out of Russia is a key to the plot line of Martin Cruz Smith's thriller “Red Square”. Another good example is American writer Noah Charney. His book “The Art Thief” tells the story of two stolen Malevich “White on White” paintings. The film industry too doesn’t fall behind. Malevich’s work is featured prominently in the 2011 Lars Von Trier apocalyptic drama “Melancholia”. With the Black Square the painter created a brand that has become a synonym of everything contemporary and novel, says Kirill Svetlyakov, the Director of the Department of Contemporary Art of The State Tretyakov Gallery.

“If you want to be modern you might use this sign of Suprematism – the Black Square as a key work of the 20th century and a sign of the modern. That’s why many people want to have something like a Black Square on their bags and on different things. This is a base sign of the modern,” Kirill Svetlyakov said.

Another art sphere with which Malevich’s name is closely connected is music. In 1913 Malevich took part in the production of the World’s First Futurist Opera. It was called “Victory over the Sun” and was intended to underline parallels between a literary text, a musical score, and the art of painting. As the opera featured a cast of such extravagant characters as Nero, Caligula, Traveller through All the Ages, and so on, Malevich faced a hard task designing the sets and costumes. He coped with it brilliantly though. A few years later Malevich designed the sets for another play, “Mystery Bouffe”, written by famous Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky and produced by innovative director Vsevolod Meyerhold. Kirill Svetlyakov believes it was important for Malevich to prove the concept of Suprematism in a rather conservative theatrical field.

“Suprematism is a way of thinking about space, about four dimensions, not three, not two-dimensional art but four-dimensional as some kind of connection between time and space. That’s why we are talking about theatre, because in modern theatre this is a very topical problem. Malevich was at the beginning of this process,” Kirill Svetlyakov said.

But Malevich is more than a big art name, it’s a brand. In 1911 Brocard & Co. Perfume Company produced eau de cologne called “Severny”, with the packing and label designed by Malevich. The bottle looked like an iceberg with a polar bear on the top. The cologne was produced until the beginning of the 1990s. So those who say that avant-garde is too sophisticated for admass culture are clearly wrong. Real talent sells at any time.


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