Re: Malevich's Black Square
All art is a language. You cannot assume that the "meaning" of a work of art is fully self-contained to the point that the audience need have no knowledge of the vocabulary in which the artist speaks nor the historical precedents. Yes, we can recognize the representation of people or objects in a "realistic" painting... shall we say a Renaissance painting for example... but the "meaning" or content is more complex than that. It deals with iconography, with how the subject matter was presented, with formal innovations, etc... The Great Pyramids of Egypt are marvelously evocative... and yet they are but simple abstract forms. The tessellations of Islamic design or the almost mathematical structures of the Music of Bach convey ideas... including the spiritual... that go far beyond being about mere pattern. Malevich was striving toward something similar... the idea that pure abstract form might convey a deeply spiritual/emotional content (just as it can in music). Historically, his paintings grew out of the innovations of Cubism, native Russian strivings for spirituality, Russian icons (in the scale and placement of the images) etc... How successful the works are at achieving these goals is debatable... as is the historical merit of the work. The general public's view, however, is completely irrelevant. The general public... if we simply follow popularity... far prefer Thomas Kinkade to Vermeer or Botticelli.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know." - John Keats
"Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves that they have a better idea."- John Ciardi