Friday, September 11, 2009

Suprematism vs. Concrete Art

When Kasimir Malevich painted "Black Square" (above) in 1915, he had yet to apply the dynamic tilting of geometric forms that gave many Suprematist works a sense of movement. This piece looks surprisingly like concrete art, though it predates Theo van Doesburg's "Manifesto of Concrete Art" by fifteen years.

Malevich was influenced in his quest for the absolutely non-objective by the ideas of the Greek-Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, namely his Fourth Way, as popularized by Gurdjieff's disciple, the Russian philosopher, P.D. Ouspensky. Ouspensky spoke of:

...a fourth dimension or a Fourth Way beyond the three to which our ordinary senses have access.

Concrete art, on the other hand, is devoid of symbolic influences or implications.

Malevich may also have been influenced by Piet Mondrian, the father of geometric art and himself a bit of a theosopher, but more likely they were each independently influenced by Cubism, which originated in 1907.

Though Mondrian's "The New Plastic in Painting" was not published until 1917 and 1918, he made the break from representational painting in 1913 and described his new ideas in a 1914 letter to H.P. Bremmer:

I construct lines and color combinations on a flat surface, in order to express general beauty with the utmost awareness. Nature (or, that which I see) inspires me, puts me, as with any painter, in an emotional state so that an urge comes about to make something, but I want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external foundation!) of things…

I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.

Interestingly, van Doesburg (who, before concrete art, founded the art movement De Stijl along with Mondrian in 1917) and Malevich both favored diagonal compositions, whereas, for the most part, Mondrian stuck to perpendicular horizontals and verticals.

More importantly, both Suprematism and concrete art declared an absolute break from representational art, even art that alluded, via abstraction, to the "real" or "objective" world.

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