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The Morning Report — 8/24/22 | Main | Wednesday Morning Rant [Joe Mannix]
August 24, 2022

Mid-Morning Art Thread [Kris]

Malevich Aeroplane.jpg

Suprematist Composition: Aeroplane Flying
Kazimir Malevich

As World War I waged, and as it became more and more destructive as the months passed, society tried to come to terms with its reality. Artists reflected and responded to this catastrophe, especially in Russia. Malevich, heavily influenced by Cubism and Futurism, tried to create a “new reality” that would usher in a Utopia Traditionalism was unable to achieve. He called it “Suprematism.”

Suprematism is the totally abstract art of supreme instinct and supreme feeling. It exploits the unique physical traits of painting for its purposes. As such, the compositions are comprised of basic geometric shapes, primary colors, and black and white. The works are supposed to represent the very act of Creation, life emerging from the Void, and the energy and vitality of that fresh, new life.

In this work, Malevich is trying to capture the power, energy, and dynamism of the modern age through the juxtaposition of colors and forms. The large white background is the Void, the primordial soup from which Malevich’s new universe emerges. The squares, rectangles, and lines zig-zag across the canvas. Three black forms, the opposite of white, occupy a large space in the bottom half of the work. If white is absolute nothing, then black is absolute something. Black is heavy and solid. It is pure instinct and feeling.

The other shapes are rendered in the three primary colors. The largest of these is in yellow. Yellow is hot and radiant, but also very light in visual weight. The shapes that make up this group are arranged in an inverted “V” pattern. It wraps around the two sides of the black area — and I think this may be to enhance its presence. Because yellow is SO light and delicate, it has to emphasize itself in some way or else it will be lost among the other colors. This framing device does that. It visually connects the yellow to the powerful black while preserving its integrity. Yellow also complements black by running top right to bottom left, opposing black’s direction of motion to the bottom right. Yellow’s lightness also counters black’s heaviness.

Red and blue balance each other. They are smallish lines near the top and bottom of the work respectively. Since red is a warm color, it is paired with yellow to further that color’s competition with black. The red runs underneath yellow, helping to define it more, and gives the yellow more power. Blue runs parallel to black. I think it also adds power to the black forms, but in a different way. Where red provides contrast to yellow and makes it radiate more, thereby countering the weight of black; blue enhances the speed of black motion to the right. To me, they look like the motion lines you’d see in comics to indicate fast movement. Blue is dark enough to not clash with black, and light enough to be recognized by the viewer as distinct from black (and, if red and yellow are present, then blue must be to, or the work is unbalanced and incomplete).

The airplane referred to in the title should be seen, I think, as an image-association device. It is not what an airplane is or looks like, but what an airplane represents in this point in history. The airplane is state-of-the-art technology. It is new, fast, powerful, and destructive. Suprematist art is dynamic, vibrant, and devastating to traditional society. Malevich hated Traditionalism. He saw it as a prison, equating the Academic style as a chain that enslaves artists and stifles creativity. This is the New Creation, the New World, formed out of nothing through pure imagination and shear will. Utopia will surely follow.


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