WetCanvas
Home Member Services Content Areas Tools Info Center WC Partners Shop Help
Channels:
Search for:
in:

Welcome to the WetCanvas forums. You are currently viewing our boards as a guest which gives you limited access to view most discussions, articles and access our other FREE features. By joining our free community you will have access to post topics, communicate privately with other members (PM), respond to polls, upload your own photos and access many other special features. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our community today!

If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please visit our help center.

Go Back   WetCanvas > The Think Tank > Art History Discussions
User Name
Password
Register Mark Forums Read

Salute to our Partners
WC! Sponsors

Our Sponsors
Closed Thread  
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-08-2009, 01:15 AM
apalinaria apalinaria is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 3
 
Malevich's Black Square

Please comment on this artwork. I need the public's view on this original piece rather than the opinion of art critics.
  #2   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-08-2009, 04:46 AM
brianvds's Avatar
brianvds brianvds is offline
A Local Legend
Pretoria
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 9,390
 
Hails from South Africa
Re: Malevich's Black Square

Well. It's square. And it's quite black, by the looks of it. That's about as much as I can say about it, but I'm sure you'll find plenty people here who will find much deeper meaning in it. ;-)
__________________
__________________________
http://brianvds.blogspot.co.za/
  #3   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-08-2009, 05:11 AM
serenely asymmetric's Avatar
serenely asymmetric serenely asymmetric is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 132
 
Re: Malevich's Black Square

I’m inclined to think it is testing the boundaries of what a painting can be. What is the minimum required for there to be anything of interest? Like work at the boundaries of any field it’s not necessarily of much interest to the public at large.
  #4   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-08-2009, 09:14 PM
Viridian's Avatar
Viridian Viridian is offline
New Member
Toronto
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 34
 
Hails from Canada
Re: Malevich's Black Square

Ok, So, Here is what the Megg's History of Graphic Design says about it...
A new vision for visual art is as far removed as possible from the world of natural forms and appearances. ( painted 1913 ). It is part of the graphic style called 'suprematism'. It is totally non-objective. there is more but..

My personal opinion of it is that if you need that many words to describe a black square on a white background, then you are not getting your point across as an artist.
__________________
Creative people are not always in charge of their creativity. And when they do their best work, they're hardly ever in charge. They're just sort of rolling along with their eyes shut, yelling Wheeeee. -Stephen King, Everything's Eventual.
  #5   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-08-2009, 11:34 PM
stlukesguild's Avatar
stlukesguild stlukesguild is online now
A WC! Legend
A large urban setting in the Mid-West
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 11,484
 
Hails from United States
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.
__________________
Saintlukesguild-http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/
"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
  #6   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-09-2009, 12:00 AM
brianvds's Avatar
brianvds brianvds is offline
A Local Legend
Pretoria
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 9,390
 
Hails from South Africa
Re: Malevich's Black Square

Quote:
Originally Posted by stlukesguild
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.

This is true. But:

Quote:
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).

So was his idea that his abstract form can convey spiritual content in itself, or that it can do so only for viewers who know the historical context? And what exactly is the historical context, and how does knowledge of it help us to understand what Malevich is trying to say?

With much of art and music, it is not so difficult to point out the answers to such questions. For example, pre-Raphaelite paintings can be quite obscure if one does not have knowledge of the particular legends they portray, and of the symbolic conventions of the times. To 'explain' such a painting to someone then simply requires one to fill him in on the history, and pointing out that at the time, this or that flower was seen to symbolize such and such human virtue, etc. etc. Then he becomes capable of interpreting lots of such paintings all by himself.

And even without understanding the meaning of the painting at all, anyone can see that it requires very substantial skill to make, so that one can enjoy and appreciate the paintings for their sheer virtuosity, even without any deeper knowledge of their meaning. What's more, because they use established forms and conventions, there is much meaning there that anyone can see without requiring any explanation (because any normal person can decipher such things as facial expressions).

The same goes even in such very abstract fields as music: one can explain to people the context of such things as Bach fugues, after which they have no difficulty in following his musical 'arguments,' and indeed a whole lot of other music by lots of other composers.

So I would say that for art to 'make sense', if it does not speak completely for itself, there still needs to be a fairly obvious 'language' that will follow from the art in combination with historical context. In the case of modernist art, this is no longer the case: even with extensive knowledge of what preceded Malevich, it is actually not at all clear what, if anything, any of his paintings mean. There simply isn't enough established visual language there.

We can see this if we do a little thought experiment: suppose he had painted a pink square instead. What would its meaning then be, and how can we tell? What about a green square, or a blue triangle in combination with a red circle? How would the meaning of such a painting differ from that of the black square, and how can we tell?

There simply isn't any way to tell. This is inevitable: without a very clearly established set of symbolic meanings, there really are limits to what you can convey with such simple abstract forms.

And this does not even address the issue of why anyone would want to pay a small fortune for a painting which he could just as easily make for himself.

I.e. in the case of the black square, there is no obvious meaning to it (as is the case with representational art), that follows from such things as facial expressions or weather conditions or whatever.

There is no clear way in which to establish deeper meaning either, because the black square does not refer to anything outside of itself, that can carry such meaning (such as an old legend or whatever), and neither does it very clearly have any ties with any established art tradition which enables us to decode the meaning of such abstract forms (as is the case with a Bach fugue, which after all has close ties with other music of the time, and follows the same conventions of how music carries emotions as any other music of the time).

And thirdly, the square takes no skills to create, so there cannot be any surface enjoyment such as there can be in skilled art.

So what exactly is so great about it then, and why do we waste so much time discussing it?

Quote:
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.

Very true, but then, how can we tell whether Vermeer is 'better' than Kinkade? Which criteria do we use? (I can think of some, but when I apply them to Malevich, they lead me to conclude that Malevich's paintings are indeed what they seem to be, namely child art).

I guess such a debate can go on endlessly. ;-)

It is of course true that these days everyone is ignorant of something, and cannot hold very informed opinions about such things. But then, in many fields, it is not difficult to explain all the mysteries. In the case of some fields, however, such as modern art or quantum physics, no one seems to be able to explain any of it in such a way that will make sense, even to otherwise perfectly intelligent and educated people. ;-)
__________________
__________________________
http://brianvds.blogspot.co.za/

Last edited by brianvds : 01-09-2009 at 12:14 AM.
  #7   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-09-2009, 08:42 AM
bobc100's Avatar
bobc100 bobc100 is offline
Veteran Member
Silver Spring, MD
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 730
 
Re: Malevich's Black Square

Quote:
Originally Posted by brianvds
The same goes even in such very abstract fields as music: one can explain to people the context of such things as Bach fugues, after which they have no difficulty in following his musical 'arguments,' and indeed a whole lot of other music by lots of other composers.

I disagree. I listen to and enjoy much modern jazz which many of my friends often find incomprehensible (eg. Sun Ra, Jack Walrath, Either/Orchestra). To them it sounds like nothing more than musicians tuning their instruments and 20 years ago I would've agreed with them. Over time I developed an ear for what these musicians had to offer, but no amount of explaining would make it comprehensible to others even if I knew what to explain, which I don't. All I know is that it's beautiful for me to listen to even though it once wasn't.

Works like Malevich's black square are more statements about art than they are art themselves. At the time it was created, it invited people to think about art in ways they had never thought about it before. To make that thinking worthwhile, however, a person has to have already developed some fundamental understanding of how and why modern art was deviating from the traditional. No amount of explaining a painting can substitute for that foundation, nor can it explain why trying to recapture the statement of that work today requires more than somebody just painting the same black square again (although artists have done that for other reasons!).
  #8   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-10-2009, 12:09 AM
stlukesguild's Avatar
stlukesguild stlukesguild is online now
A WC! Legend
A large urban setting in the Mid-West
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 11,484
 
Hails from United States
Re: Malevich's Black Square

...was his idea that his abstract form can convey spiritual content in itself, or that it can do so only for viewers who know the historical context? And what exactly is the historical context, and how does knowledge of it help us to understand what Malevich is trying to say?

With much of art and music, it is not so difficult to point out the answers to such questions. For example, pre-Raphaelite paintings can be quite obscure if one does not have knowledge of the particular legends they portray, and of the symbolic conventions of the times. To 'explain' such a painting to someone then simply requires one to fill him in on the history, and pointing out that at the time, this or that flower was seen to symbolize such and such human virtue, etc. etc. Then he becomes capable of interpreting lots of such paintings all by himself.

And even without understanding the meaning of the painting at all, anyone can see that it requires very substantial skill to make, so that one can enjoy and appreciate the paintings for their sheer virtuosity, even without any deeper knowledge of their meaning. What's more, because they use established forms and conventions, there is much meaning there that anyone can see without requiring any explanation (because any normal person can decipher such things as facial expressions).


Brian... you raise many interesting points. First allow me to state that I am in non way an apologist for Malevich or his brand of Minimalism. My own preferences in art tend toward something far more... generous... sensuous. Still, I am not prepared to dismiss him out of hand. I do agree that his art... and many other works of Modernism... appear far more hermetic... esoteric than earlier artistic vocabularies. For his work to succeed... to actually "work"... he is far more dependent upon the viewer being educated as to what he is trying to do than other artists. Accessibility itself is no measure of the merit of a work of art.

The same goes even in such very abstract fields as music: one can explain to people the context of such things as Bach fugues, after which they have no difficulty in following his musical 'arguments,' and indeed a whole lot of other music by lots of other composers.

I must agree with bob100 who suggests that perhaps you overstate the ease of grasping other "abstract" languages such as those of music and architecture. I am somewhat uncertain as to just how rapidly one might grasp and even appreciate an art work in a form that is quite foreign. I, for example, love jazz, Middle-Eastern classical music, Medieval European music, and opera. For many, these art forms are next to impossible to appreciate... nothing but noise. They were certainly much the same to me for quite some time. But with time and experience I came to appreciate them... and eventually to admire them and the be able to discern lesser from greater works within each genre.

I have had a similar experience with regard to abstract art. As an art student I had little or no use for abstraction. Nevertheless... I continued to look at the work if only to try to sort out what it was that others saw in it. Any number of cynics (certainly some right here at WC!) would suggest that I became brainwashed. The reality is that I grew more and more experienced and eventually found that my logical objections to abstraction did not hold. I began to recognize that it was completely absurd for me to be able to appreciate the abstraction of a Bach fugue, a work of architecture, a Celtic manuscript, a Persian carpet... but not the whole of abstract painting.

So I would say that for art to 'make sense', if it does not speak completely for itself, there still needs to be a fairly obvious 'language' that will follow from the art in combination with historical context. In the case of modernist art, this is no longer the case: even with extensive knowledge of what preceded Malevich, it is actually not at all clear what, if anything, any of his paintings mean. There simply isn't enough established visual language there.

I would say in order for a work of art to "make sense" it need not employ an "obvious" language. To truly grasp a Medieval chant or what an architect intended with the use of the abstract forms within a Romanesque church demands a great deal of prior knowledge. We may assume that it is not so demanding as much of these languages have become part of our larger cultural vocabulary. The fragmentation of Cubism... collage... and montage, when they first burst upon the scene, were more than disconcerting. They were incomprehensible... even threatening to many. Today we have no problem with such fragmentation. We see it in ads, in commercials, in film... to the point that we would probably find any film without such fragmentation (through editing)... to be strange... even disconcerting... threatening. Malevich is attempting to convey something through a language that he has stripped to its absolute essentials. Whether he is or is not successful is again debatable... but I would not dismiss it... nor the majority of abstraction... quite so easily.

We can see this if we do a little thought experiment: suppose he had painted a pink square instead. What would its meaning then be, and how can we tell? What about a green square, or a blue triangle in combination with a red circle? How would the meaning of such a painting differ from that of the black square, and how can we tell?

But can't we play the same game with any work of art? What if Mona Lisa had been dressed in red? What if Michelangelo had painted the Sistine in oil paints and employed Caravaggio's dramatic use of light and shadow? The abstract elements of light and color and form and line can change a work of art even more dramatically than a change in image. A painting of the Last Supper, for example, may have more in common with a portrait painting or a landscape than it does with another Last Supper... because of a common "content". "Content" and "subject matter" are not one and the same. "Content" is the result of the merger of the image and the abstract elements used to composed it or give it form.

There simply isn't any way to tell. This is inevitable: without a very clearly established set of symbolic meanings, there really are limits to what you can convey with such simple abstract forms.

But then... these same limits apply to figurative art because it is just as dependent upon the same abstract elements: color, line, shape, value, etc...

I.e. in the case of the black square, there is no obvious meaning to it (as is the case with representational art), that follows from such things as facial expressions or weather conditions or whatever...

What is the "obvious meaning" of this painting?



Yes, I recognize that it is the representation of a woman... but that is merely the subject matter. What is the "meaning"? What makes this work resonate across 600 years of history when the subject and everyone who could possibly have known her is dead?

Of course I am playing the devil's advocate here because I somewhat question the very notion of "meaning" in art. What is the "meaning" of the Clarinet Quintet by Mozart, or one of Bach's fugues? If I cannot reduce the experience of the work of art to an obvious literal meaning does that make it "meaningless"? Does that then mean that life is also "meaningless"? Certainly I cannot reduce it to any obvious meaning.

There is no clear way in which to establish deeper meaning either, because the black square does not refer to anything outside of itself, that can carry such meaning (such as an old legend or whatever), and neither does it very clearly have any ties with any established art tradition which enables us to decode the meaning of such abstract forms (as is the case with a Bach fugue, which after all has close ties with other music of the time, and follows the same conventions of how music carries emotions as any other music of the time).

But this is not true. You suggest that we can decode a Bach fugue, for example, through its ties to previous musical traditions and other music of the time. The same applies to Malevich. His work can be read as part of a larger tradition and in relation to the art of others. I can name any number of predecessors, contemporaries, and followers. I would suggest, for starters, that you look at the painting in question in the context in which it was presented:



The painting was but one of a group or installation hung with the clear intention of suggesting relationships between the works. Just as Bach's Goldberg Variations limits the composer to fugal variations built upon a single theme, Malevich limits himself to variations upon just a few colors and shapes. Some of the resulting works are more complex... some simpler. The famous Black Square is among the most minimal... and it is placed in a manner that clearly alludes to the Russian tradition of the icon place in the corner of the home. His square is a new icon.

And thirdly, the square takes no skills to create, so there cannot be any surface enjoyment such as there can be in skilled art.

Again... the skill needed is irrelevant. Certainly I am one who enjoys virtuosity as much as the next... but what great skill was needed for William Blake to have composed The Tyger (Tyger, Tyger, Burning bright...)? Does he employ any words that are beyond the abilities of any average educated person... let alone an academic or poet? What of Eric Satie? His most famous composition could almost have been written by a child... certainly a child could perform it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Al5U1WJ48rM

Personally I find that Malevich... and Mondrian (among others) are far too stripped down to the absolute minimum for my taste. They lack an interest as an image... and as an object... as a painting showing the touch of the artist (whether we are speaking of virtuosity... of the caress of the paint). I personally need more in terms of image... more to look at... more in terms of visual, formal relationships... more in terms of color, line, touch, etc...

So what exactly is so great about it then, and why do we waste so much time discussing it?

I must say that bob100 answers this question perfectly well: "Works like Malevich's black square are more statements about art than they are art themselves. At the time it was created, it invited people to think about art in ways they had never thought about it before. To make that thinking worthwhile, however, a person has to have already developed some fundamental understanding of how and why modern art was deviating from the traditional. No amount of explaining a painting can substitute for that foundation, nor can it explain why trying to recapture the statement of that work today requires more than somebody just painting the same black square again."
__________________
Saintlukesguild-http://stlukesguild.tumblr.com/
"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
  #9   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-11-2009, 02:58 AM
brianvds's Avatar
brianvds brianvds is offline
A Local Legend
Pretoria
 
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 9,390
 
Hails from South Africa
Re: Malevich's Black Square

Quote:
Originally Posted by bobc100
I disagree. I listen to and enjoy much modern jazz which many of my friends often find incomprehensible (eg. Sun Ra, Jack Walrath, Either/Orchestra). To them it sounds like nothing more than musicians tuning their instruments and 20 years ago I would've agreed with them. Over time I developed an ear for what these musicians had to offer, but no amount of explaining would make it comprehensible to others even if I knew what to explain, which I don't. All I know is that it's beautiful for me to listen to even though it once wasn't.

Ah, but I am not talking about enjoying a particular type of music. I am talking about being able to make sense of it, and perhaps respecting it. To me, Schoenberg sounds like utter noise, but I still respect it, because I know where he's coming from (although I disagree with his aesthetic, and indeed find it a bit absurd; I think he and his successors made the same mistake as the modernist visual artists: they took a rather small and unimportant question, and turned it into a massive one and then ran off on a tangent with it.)

Quote:
Works like Malevich's black square are more statements about art than they are art themselves. At the time it was created, it invited people to think about art in ways they had never thought about it before.

Oh? How can you tell? If you picked up a black square painted on a piece of cardboard in the street, would you feel it is an invitation to think about art in a new way? I think you would not, whereas if you picked up a painting of a lady with a mysterious little smile, you'd have no difficulty recognizing it as a word of art, and you might even like it enough to keep it.

So how can we tell the black square is an artistic commentary on art? We can't, but for the fact that it was put in a gallery. And then, when people got used to such abstraction, artists put ever more and more weird and outrageous things in galleries: urinals, bits of garbage, their own feces, representations of Jesus in urine, pickled sheep, starving dogs and so on.

No doubt all of these also invited people to think about art in new ways. I.e. modernists have been making the exact same statement about art over and over and over again, for almost a century now.

Now, I'm not saying the statement is in itself completely unworthy of being made. One can indeed have an interesting philosophical discussion about what exactly art is. But I would think that the best way to do that is to write an essay about it (perhaps illustrated with things like black squares, or at least asking readers to imagine such things and ask themselves whether it is art).

I would also think that while the question is a worthy one, it isn't remotely as profound or important as it is made out to be, and how a whole century's worth of artists could spend all their time and energy on it is a mystery to me.

Lastly, why such things as the black square should be considered a masterpiece remains an unanswered question. Everyone seems to AGREE that there is nothing particularly masterful about it; the really important thing seems to be the question that Malevich was asking, not the actual painting itself. I.e. perhaps Malevich deserves a prize for art philosophy, but why make an issue about the little illustration he used, seeing as it could have been anything at all?
__________________
__________________________
http://brianvds.blogspot.co.za/
  #10   Report Bad Post  
Old 01-13-2009, 11:40 PM
apalinaria apalinaria is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 3
 
Re: Malevich's Black Square

Thank You Everyone For Your Comments!!! You Were All A Great Help!! Looking Forward To More!
  #11   Report Bad Post  
Old 02-17-2009, 07:19 PM
PiKoonMo's Avatar
PiKoonMo PiKoonMo is offline
Veteran Member
Pa
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 577
 
Hails from United States
Re: Malevich's Black Square

i think it was robert motherwell or some member of the new york school who said something along the lines that painters can't write so they paint, much the same way a musician plays music instead of paints. i think the essence of painting gets lost in translation to words. just as it would in reverse. each medium is different in the ways it communicates. Picasso asked someone if they found meaning in the singing of a song bird. in my own work i hope to attract and hold the attention of any one regardless of their previous knowledge. rothko was very concerned of the interaction of the painting and the viewer. no matter what the painting offers, the viewers brings some too. in the case of malevich i would have to say he succeeded in stirring thought, as here we are almost a 100 years later bringing up his name just because of a little black square.
  #12   Report Bad Post  
Old 03-18-2019, 05:54 AM
abstract painter abstract painter is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2019
Posts: 33
 
Re: Malevich's Black Square

Quote:
Originally Posted by PiKoonMo
i think it was robert motherwell or some member of the new york school who said something along the lines that painters can't write so they paint, much the same way a musician plays music instead of paints. i think the essence of painting gets lost in translation to words. just as it would in reverse. each medium is different in the ways it communicates. Picasso asked someone if they found meaning in the singing of a song bird. in my own work i hope to attract and hold the attention of any one regardless of their previous knowledge. rothko was very concerned of the interaction of the painting and the viewer. no matter what the painting offers, the viewers brings some too. in the case of malevich i would have to say he succeeded in stirring thought, as here we are almost a 100 years later bringing up his name just because of a little black square.
I couldn’t have said it better myself .

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -4. The time now is 08:32 PM.


© 2014 F+W All rights reserved.