Friday, March 2, 2012

Russian State Museum - Malevich and Metrushkas

 Malevich's "Red Square: Painterly Realism
Marie-Claire was determined that we should check out the State Museum's collection of Kasimir Malevich paintings.  I told her iI didn't really know much about Malevich, but when we actually walked into the room with his paintings, i could see that I did:  I remembered the Black Square.... and the Red Square.

It was so strange actually seeing those paintings, and thinking about Malevich, whose artistic production coincided with the bolshevic revolution.   I remember the first time I encountered this kind of painting, and wondering how it could possibly qualify as 'art'.  Now, there is no question in my mind.  :-) 

It was interesting standing infront of the painting of "red square", and noticing that it wasn't really a perfect square.  Also interesting to get up really close, so you could get a sense of the canvas on which the paint had been laid.  i also love the title, and wonder what is the difference between a peasant and a noble woman (if you reduce things to two dimensions).  More interesting still was listening to pieces of Malevich's writings on art, listening to his comment that he sought, in his paintings 'to slaughter art and put it in the grave'.  Hard to listen to that, and not think about the revolution that was just around the corner, and the strength of the artistic (and political?) impulse to create through an act of total destruction -- the attempt to create something completely new and unthought.

It made it all the more interesting returning to his symbolically laden paintings, thinking about his desire to have art be unconnected to nature... his comments that the representation of nature was a form of theft.  If you believe that way, then it does become a great challenge to think about what art means, its functions, its forms, it shape.  So, in this painting, the argument is that the image is completely free from gravity... that there is no up or down to the painting.  I tried to look at the painting on another angle to see if i agreed with that assessment or not!

Malevich's 'Supremism'...
...and direction doesn't matter...


We had spent the evening before talking with Alex and Evgeny about the Russian Orthodox Church, and its place in the Russian psyche: in particular, the discussion turned to the place of icons.  Malevich was, he claimed, battling against deities, battling against icons.  We started looking a bit more closely at icons.  Yep.... i could see the icon in this particular paining (was it called "an icon of the future"?)   And i loved it even more to see Malevich, the ultimate in modernist painter, captured on this set of stacking dolls, the ultimate in traditional toys from Russia.  A perfect blend of the traditional and avantguarde!  :-)
an icon of the future?

Malevich metrushka

1 comment:

  1. And lucky me! i have a set of those stacking dolls too. It is always good to put in an order when Rebecca is going on a trip. My order goes like this: please bring me home something that is so interesting I will wish I had been on the trip with you.

    So it is with my Malevich matrushkas.



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