Friday, May 14, 2010

Malevich and Suprematism, Part I

Kazimir Severinovich Malevich [Казимир Северинович Малевич] was Russian in its most contested forms: he was born in Ukraine of ethnic Poles, which would make his name Kazimierz Malewicz. I suspect that such contingencies of identity--particularly within the Slavic linguistic system and the Soviet political climate of the early twentieth century--inform much of Malevich's rejection of his Cubo-Futurism and subsequent development of a movement in non-representational art he called Suprematism.

It is in his Suprematist compositions where non-representationalism and non-objectivism converge, collapsing the entire system of representational and symbolic art of the past several centuries. It is also here that Malevich comes to prefigure the post-Structuralism of the late twentieth century.

We do not need to know who the painter was. Nor does our hermeneutics require knowledge of Suprematism per se or of the work's title. This work's title is Suprematism No. 50 (1915). In it, we already see how the recent deployment of photography exiles the painter from the role of representer. We will look more closely--through the lens of Suprematism--at another work that complicates symbolism and signification in another post.

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