The First World War was the most horrible event that had happened in history. From 1914 to 1918 over 14 million people died in violent circumstances and from its beginning nobody could assume that massacre. In fact, previous wars seemed a joke compared with the devastating effects of those new weapons and gases. However, arts developed as if everyone wanted to express its most recondite fears and dreams.
In 1915, the Russian artists Kseniva Boguslavskava, Mikhail Menkow, Olga Rozanova, Ivan Puni and Ivan Klyun joined Kazimir Malevich to look for a ‘supreme art’ able to change the world, able to build something better. Then, they formed the Suprematist group.
We must look for the antecedents in Malevich’s background and costume sketches designed in St. Petersburg two years before for the opera ‘Victory over the Sun’. Pure shapes, few colors (predominating black and white), and a sensation of an infinite clean space persuaded Malevich about the necessity of following that way.
In fact, Kazimir Malevich (1878-1935) is a peculiar different personality, almost a mystic almost a rebel (maybe both are the same). He was very influenced by philology and by the idea that language is not a simple vehicle for communication but the beginning of abstract thinking and able to create (and idea shared by very many contemporaries as James Joyce). Furthermore, he was interested in aerial photography and aviation, which led him to abstractions inspired by or derived from aerial landscapes (see his famous “Black Square, 1915”, in the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, which will be also the starting point for American Minimal art in the late 60’s).
Then, with all this intellectual baggage, Suprematism would be one of the most radical developments in abstract art, because they believed their art would be ‘superior’ to all the art of the past and that Suprematism would lead to the ‘supremacy of pure feeling or perception in the pictorial arts.’
The first exhibition of the group in 1915 at O.10, ‘The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings’ revealed their new work: an array of geometric forms suspended above a white or light colored background. The variety of forms (mostly geometric), sizes and angles creates a sense of depth in these compositions, making the squares, circles and crosses appear to be a moving space in an universal new creation.
Malevich, a man of vision, in 1927, he travelled to Warsaw, Berlin and Munich for a retrospective which brought him international recognition. Then, he arranged to leave most of his paintings behind when he went back to the Soviet Union. A fantastic premonition, since Stalinist regime confiscated his works because abstract couldn’t express social realities. “Art does not need us, and it never did,” Malevich answered.
Before dying Malevich wrote in an unpublished manuscript: “No phenomenon is mortal and this means not only the body but the idea as well, a symbol that one is eternally reincarnated in another form which actually exists in the conscious and unconscious person.”
Malevich’s work only recently reappeared in art exhibitions in Russia. However, his influence has been enormous in Europe and America… Once again, humanity is hard to understand.