Friday, February 13, 2009

You Can Rely on Malevich's Black Square...

... to prompt controversy in every Intro to Modern class. Students generally find Cubist, Fauvist, Expressionist, and Futurist works palatable, but the minute Black Square goes up, a sense of outrage inevitably erupts. How can a plain black square be art, several people always demand to know. What kind of perversity is this and what kind of drugs was Malevich taking that he gave up doing odd but somewhat intelligible paintings of peasants and knife grinders in favor of the Black Square?
That's not to say that there aren't always other students who think the Black Square is a perfectly reasonable thing to paint, or who at least express a curiosity about what Malevich was trying to get across. But the Black Square is invariably the work that prompts a period of confusion and dismay that generally continues with Duchamp's Fountain and does not dissipate when we move into Dada. Things usually calm down by the time we get to Jackson Pollock, whether because everyone is acclimated or because we've had a break in the form of Regionalism, Social and Socialist Realism, and Nazi art. Judy Chicago's Menstruation Bathroom, however, is usually good for stirring up the crowd again.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Rabbit Girl said...

I like Black Square....though I certainly don't understand it.

We were never presented with art like this in the one year I spent in art history....

February 14, 2009 6:39 AM  
Blogger Karla said...

I think it's probably one of those things they don't try to deal with in survey courses.

February 14, 2009 4:45 PM  
Blogger Dr. Zaius said...

Ha! You posted it upside down!

March 20, 2009 6:48 PM  
Blogger Karla said...

No, you're the one who's upside-down!

March 20, 2009 8:58 PM  

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