Adventures of the Black Square, Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015, at the Whitechapel Gallery, London
It was only a few months ago that Malevich’s monochromes were last in London, venerating his radical contribution to the end of pictorial painting and some proclaimed, to the end of art itself. Tate Modern’s Malevich, Revolutionary of Russian Art (16 July – 26 October 2014) was very much a historical survey; looking back at the long shadow Malevich’s Black Square – a headstone for representational painting – cast over the history of modern art. Adventures of the Black Square, Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015 at Whitechapel Gallery until 6 April clearly and alternatively positions the work’s reductive form (in this exhibition it is Malevich’s diminutive undated Black Quadrilateral that is featured) as the beginning of a new art starting in Russia and Northern Europe in the early twentieth century. The spread of geometric abstraction is then documented chronologically as it travels internationally throughout the next hundred years. Rather than Black Square being revered as merely a portrait of an idea, it is shown as the initiator of geometric works that connect with, reflect or challenge society. Adventures of the Black Square presents abstraction as not being estranged from social reality, that its concern with form, shape and colour throughout its history are intrinsically linked to politics and expressions of modern living.