This talk concerns the period in which Malevich was thinking about what a new post-Futurist artistic style might be, and the first public exhibitions of his Suprematist conclusions. I will discuss the artist’s various formal experiments, and also the conceptual and philosophical ideas he considered, as he struggled to give his radical new work a solid theoretical grounding.
Right from the beginning, Malevich construed Suprematism as a way of looking at the entire world, rather than a mere painting “style.” He saw it reflected systematically in music, sculpture, design, painting, architecture, and even the universe – a kind of natural, visual mathematics. This early understanding persisted throughout the course of Suprematism, underpinning and influencing its evolution.
Charlotte Douglas is Emeritus Professor at New York University, and Founding President of The Malevich Society (New York). She is the author, editor, and co-editor of numerous publications about Malevich and the Russian avant-garde. A list of publications and several of her articles are available on the website: nyu.academia.edu/CharlotteDouglas.
Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Douglas’s pioneering book Swans of Other Worlds: Kazimir Malevich and the Origins of Abstraction in Russia, originally published in 1980, is now being reissued as a Kindle electronic book. It will be available on Amazon before the end of 2015.
The Black Square
This year, the painting The Black Square of 1915 was the subject of an intensive technical study at the State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, and the results of that investigation form the basis for this paper. The examination discovered that the 1915 canvas contained not two, but three consecutive compositions. The first, produced in a Cubo-futurist idiom, was succeeded by a proto-Suprematist composition, which was then painted over with the image of the black square. The scientific analysis of the black paint confirmed that the pigment had been developed by Malevich. An inscription on the finished painting attests to the artist's initial ambivalence toward his creation. All of this new evidence allows us to reconsider established theories about the painting's origins. The artist's conception of the work, as it turns out, was far more complicated and drawn out than is commonly believed, and this closer scrutiny suggests that the so-called mystifications of Malevich may actually contain reliable information.
Irina Vakar is an art historian and researcher at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. She is the author of approximately 100 publications and is a regular participant in conferences, both in Russia and abroad. Her research interests include the Russian avant-garde, the oeuvre of Kazimir Malevich, Russian-French exchanges, art criticism, and Russian symbolism. She has curated numerous exhibitions, including Cubisme-Cubism-Kubismus (Hannover, Moscow, 2003); Jack of Diamonds (Moscow, 2005); Konstantin Rozhdestvenskii (Moscow, 2006); Petr Konchalovskii (Moscow, 2010); Aleksandr Deineka (Moscow, Rome, 2010-2011); Boris Grigoriev (Moscow, 2011); Natalia Goncharova (Moscow, 2013-2014); and Georgii Yakulov (Moscow, 2015). She initiated and co-curated the major retrospective and catalogue of Malevich’s work at the Tretyakov Gallery in 1989.
“... In our time, when it became we ...” A Previously Unknown Essay by Malevich
Malevich’s philosophical writings represent an integral body of texts, which are united by common methodological principles and which evolved as a series of “subtexts,” supplementing and enriching one another. Most of these have been published, but some remained as manuscripts, which were mentioned by Malevich or appeared in lists of his works compiled by his disciples. Among these articles is “We as utilitarian perfection”; a fragment of which, entitled “We,” is now in the Nikolai Khardzhiev archive.
“We as utilitarian perfection” was announced by Malevich, but never appeared as an article nor as a separate pamphlet in the lithographed editions published in Vitebsk. There is no doubt, however, that the manuscript fragment found in the Khardzhiev archive is a draft for this particular treatise.
This fragment argues that it is imperative to replace individualistic tendencies in art with collective creativity, and that collective representation is the only possible form of cultural activity at the present time. The antithesis between the individual and the collective and the modality of its explication have well-defined sources, which will be the focus of this paper.
Tatiana Goriacheva is the Senior Scientific Researcher in the Department of Twentieth-century Graphic Arts at the State Tretyakov Gallery. Born in Moscow, she received her education at Moscow State University where she defended her PhD thesis "Suprematism as Utopia: The Relationship between Theory and Practice in the Artistic Concepts of Malevich." Subsequently, her research has focused on Russian avant-garde developments, including Futurism, Constructivism and Suprematism, which she has related to their wider cultural contexts, exploring parallels with literary and philosophical ideas, social concepts and creative ideas developed by European artists. Her numerous articles, books, and catalogues include an edited, facsimile edition of Almanac Unovis No. 1(2003); Nikolai Suetin (2010); "Nas budet troe..." Kazimir Malevich. Ilya Chashnik. Nikolai Suetin. Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of Sepherot Foundation (2012, the catalogue of the show that she also curated); and Kazimir Malevich and artists of his circle (2015). She also curated the exhibition Theatre Drawings by Russian Artists from the Collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery (2009). Since 1996 she has been a member of the Russian Avant-Garde Research Commission, established by the Language and Literature Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Linda Dalrymple Henderson:
Malevich, the Fourth Dimension, and the Ether of Space
One Hundred Years Later
What can we say in 2015 about Malevich’s Suprematist “color masses in the fourth dimension” that we did not yet know in the later twentieth century, as scholarship on the Russian avant-garde developed? Although it was possible then to recover the cultural prominence of interest in an unseen higher fourth dimension of space and the importance for Malevich, Kruchenykh, and Matiushin of the writings of P. D. Ouspensky and the British “hyperspace philosopher” Charles Howard Hinton, those ideas seemed at the time to exist in a scientific vacuum. Such interest in a spatial fourth dimension clearly predated the rise to prominence of the temporal fourth dimension of Einsteinian Relativity Theory and its “space-time” continuum, which has so long been viewed as the scientific paradigm of the twentieth century. In reality, the science that excited the imaginations of the public and of artists alike through the later 1910s was still the ether physics of the later nineteenth century. During the 1890s and early years of the century the discovery of the X-ray, radioactivity, and the Hertzian waves that stimulated the development of wireless telegraphy had offered a new image of matter as dematerializing into space and of space itself filled with electromagnetic waves vibrating in the ubiquitous, imponderable medium known as the ether. The fourth dimension was often discussed in relation to the ether of space, with the two concepts functioning in tandem as signs of an invisible “meta-reality” just beyond the reach of human vision. The ether is one of major lacunae in the history of early twentieth-century art, and this paper restores the concept to the discussion of Malevich Suprematist works, whose titles have long made clear his interest in topics such as electromagnetism and wireless telegraphy.
Linda Dalrymple Henderson is the David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Art History and Regents' Outstanding Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. In addition to numerous essays, she is the author of The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art (1983; new, enlarged ed., MIT, 2013), Duchamp in Context: Science and Technology in the Large Glass and Related Works (Princeton, 1998), and Reimagining Space: The Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York (Blanton Museum of Art, UT, 2008). She co-edited the anthology From Energy to Information: Representation in Science and Technology, Art, and Literature (Stanford, 2002). Henderson is currently at work on book projects titled "The Energies of Modernism: Art, Science, and Occultism in the Early 20th Century" and “The Fourth Dimension in Art and Culture Decade-by-Decade Through the 20th Century.”
Suprematism and the Philosophy of Technology
Petr Klimentovich Engel’meier (1855-1942) was among the first thinkers in Russia to research the intersections of technology with art and science. His theories were influenced by the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century philosophers such as Ernst Kapp, Émile Boutroux, Henri Poincaré, Wilhelm Ostwald, Henri Bergson, and Ernst Mach.
Creativity and inventiveness, scientific objectivity and economy, collectiveness and utilitarianism, and materiality and technique were among the key notions discussed in Engel’meir’s writings. For Engel’meier, creativity (tvorchestvo) in all fields of human activity resulted from a three-part process: intuition, reason, and craftsmanship (masterstvo); these concepts were also fundamental for the Russian avant-garde. In this paper, I shall discuss the affinities between Suprematism and Engel’meir’s theories, with a particular focus on the creative process.
Alexander Bouras specialises in Russian twentieth-century art and culture. He recently completed his PhD thesis at the Moscow Architectural Institute, where his research focused on the significance of materiality in Suprematism and Constructivism, with reference to late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century philosophy of technology and science. During 2009-2010 he was a research fellow of the Malevich Society in New York. He has published various articles on the art of the Russian avant-garde in Russia and abroad.
This talk will explore Olga Rozanova’s Suprematism and her last abstract works (1916-18) which were presented at her posthumous show (The First State Exhibition), in the context of Malevich’s and Rodchenko’s dispute concerning abstract art. I intend to examine the unique artistic philosophy of abstraction, developed by Rozanova, as a kind of a “third way,” outside of the binary opposition that developed into the future Constructivism vs. Suprematism debate
Nina Gourianova is a professor at Northwestern University. Her scholarship in the fields of literature and art history encompasses both Russian and European modernist and avant-garde movements, with a specific emphasis on the interrelation of aesthetics and politics. She has participated in the organization of several exhibitions, including The Russian Avant-garde Book (2003, MoMA, New York). Gourianova’s most recent book, The Aesthetics of Anarchy (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012) has won AATSEEL Best Book in Literary/Cultural Studies annual award. Her work has been supported by the NEH, the National Humanities Center, the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, and IREX.
Kazimir Malevich, the UNOVIS Group and the Poetics of Materiality
Malevich’s pedagogical system at the Vitebsk Art School was based on an analysis of art from Cézanne to Suprematism, including courses on color, form, volume, material, faktura, and composition, Cubism, the laws of Futurism, and the theory and practice of Suprematism.
Exploring the significance of materiality and immateriality in Suprematism, this talk will focus on Kazimir Malevich’s interest in science and technology, and the UNOVIS group’s explorations of matter and Suprematist faktura. In Malevich’s teaching, faktura fused the material and immaterial, challenging preconceptions about its meaning, practice, purpose, matter and use. Faktura was explored by Malevich and his students, as an idea, a formless phenomenon, a technological or scientific development, and a focus on future discoveries.
I shall particularly discuss the intersections of visual and verbal avant-garde, focusing on carborundum – an electromagnetic, metallic substance – that was a central topic in Kruchenykh’s poem “golod khimicheskii – ballady o kamne karborunde” and at the same time a subject of theoretical and practical explorations by the UNOVIS students.
Maria Kokkori is a research fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago and visiting Lecturer in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. She received her PhD from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London in 2008, where her thesis focused on the examination of paintings by Kazimir Malevich, Ivan Kliun and Liubov Popova. She then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute with a focus on Russian Constructivism. During 2009-2011 she was a research fellow of the Malevich Society in New York. Author and co-editor of Utopia: Russian art and culture 1900-1989 (2013), she is currently working on a book about Malevich and the UNOVIS group. She is the author of various articles on the art and design of the Russian avant-garde.
Branches of UNOVIS in Smolensk and Orenburg
Long before he arrived in Vitebsk, Kazimir Malevich had connected the establishment of Suprematism as a Russian avant-garde artistic movement with the creation of a group of adherents. It was only in Vitebsk, however, in January-February 1920 that he actually managed to fully realize the idea of creating such an association, when he set up UNOVIS, “the party of supremacy” within the city’s art school. By the summer of that year, the Suprematists dominated the school. Yet as soon as he had founded his Suprematist party, the artist wanted to extend the influence of his ideas far beyond the limits of the Belarusian city of Vitebsk, hoping to gain the support of art schools in other cities of Bolshevik Russia, and above all in Moscow. In particular, Malevich hoped to secure the assistance of those artists with whom he had already co-operated. In such cases, the prospects of establishing branches of UNOVIS were determined by various subjective factors. Not surprisingly, the geographical proximity of Smolensk contributed to the creation of a branch of UNOVIS there in April, 1920. A decisive role in its short history was played by artists who worked at the Political Direction of the Western Front. The Orenburg branch was able to co-operate more productively with the Vitebsk UNOVIS in organizing the group’s Moscow exhibition of 1921.
Alexander Lisov has a doctorate in art history and is a Professor of the Department of World History and Culture, Vitebsk State University (Republic of Belarus). He belongs to the Society of Historians of East European, Eurasian, and Russian Art and Architecture (SHERA), and is a member of the Lissitzky Foundation’s Board of Directors. Professor Lisov is the author of more than 200 scholarly publications. He has also participated in the World Congresses of ICCEES held in Tampere (Finland), Berlin (Germany), Stockholm (Sweden), conferences in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, France, and Canada. His research interests include the fine arts of Belarus in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; the history of the Vitebsk art school; the Russian avant-garde; Russian artists living and working abroad; Kazimir Malevich and his circle; the early period of the life and art of Marc Chagall; and the art of El Lissitzky.
“…the ‘sky’ stayed behind”: Architectural Suprematism between Lissitzky and Malevich
This paper examines the relationship between the two most senior members of the UNOVIS group, El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich, through the lens of architecture. An initially productive collaboration between the two artists based on a division between ‘sky’ and ‘earth’, i.e. between theoretical and practical labors, was upset by Lissitzky’s departure for Germany in winter 1921. Their relationship resumed in 1924, when Lissitzky was convalescing in Switzerland and was able to maintain regular written correspondence for the first time since his departure from the USSR. In Switzerland, Lissitzky renewed his focus on matters of architecture, working on the design of his signature building, the Wolkenbügel and publishing articles in Das Kunstblatt and ABC. At this time, he also learned that Malevich himself had taken up architecture, later commenting that Malevich’s views were “completely opposed to my views, and in my opinion harmful.” Focusing on the divergent architectural paths of these former partners, this paper seeks to clarify aspects of Lissitzky and Malevich’s collaboration and their respective views on the built environment.
Samuel Johnson received his Ph.D. in the History of Art and Architecture from Harvard University in 2015, with a dissertation on the printed oeuvre of El Lissitzky. He is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where he is completing a book manuscript on Lissitzky.
Lazar Khidekel and Suprematism as an Embodiment of the Infinite
This presentation will focus on the rapid maturation of Lazar Khidekel’s creative approach during the Vitebsk Art School period and his role in developing Suprematism’s inherent potential.
Having studied painting, drawing and architecture with Chagall, Dobuzhinsky, and Lissitzky, as well as Suprematism with Malevich, Lazar Khidekel sought to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an architect. Inspired by his artistic imagination, he developed a lifelong fascination with visionary and imaginary architecture that he knew could only become a reality in the distant future. He played an important role in Suprematism’s historical development by applying its precepts to both practical architectural projects and imaginary floating structures for the future. He was instrumental in the transition from planar Suprematism to volumetric Suprematism, creating axonometric projections (The Aero-Club: Horizontal Architecton, 1922-23), making three-dimensional models, such as the architectons, designing objects (model of an “Ashtray,” 1922-23), and producing the first Suprematist architectural project (The Workers’ Club, 1926). In the mid-1920s, he began his journey into the realm of visionary architecture. Directly inspired by Suprematism and its notion of an organic form-creation continuum, he explored new philosophical, scientific and technological futuristic approaches, and proposed innovative solutions for the creation of new urban environments, where people would live in harmony with nature and would be protected from man-made and natural disasters (his still topical proposal for flood protection - the City on the Water, 1925, etc).
The discussion will embrace key aspects, including how Malevich assessed earlier attempts to create a Suprematist architecture and his unconditional acceptance of Khidekel’s Workers’ Club as the first example of a truly Suprematist “dynamic architecture.”
Regina Khidekel received her MA and PhD from the Academy of Arts in Leningrad. An art critic and curator, she was the art director of the Diaghilev Art Center (1990-1993, the first unofficial art organization in St. Petersburg following perestroika); the founding director of the Russian American Cultural Center in New York (1998); and the founding president of the Lazar Khidekel Society (2010). Regina Khidekel has frequently contributed to Russian and American journals such as Iskusstvo, Dekorativnoe Iskusstvo, Teatr, Tvorchestvo, and ArtNews, as well numerous catalogues and books, including It's the Real Thing. Soviet and Post- Soviet Sots Art and American Pop Art (Minnesota University Press, 1998). Dr Khidekel has made a substantial contribution to the scholarship on Lazar Khidekel through her cataloguing and organisational activities for the Lazar Khidekel Archive, her research, and her curatorial expertise, which has resulted in several international exhibitions, conferences, lectures and publications. Above all, she edited and contributed to the monograph Lazar Khidekel and Suprematism (Prestel Publishing, 2014).
Conflicting Approaches to Creativity? Suprematism and Constructivism
The overt animosity between Kazimir Malevich and Vladimir Tatlin has exerted an enduring influence on the way in which art historians have regarded Suprematism and Constructivism – the two approaches with which the two leaders are closely associated. While Suprematism has tended to be linked with a quintessentially aesthetic approach as well as more spiritual and metaphysical values, Constructivism has been firmly connected with materialist attitudes and the practical, industrial and ideological imperatives associated with communism and the Bolsheviks.
In this paper, I shall try to establish a more nuanced consideration of the relationship between the two movements. I shall attempt to define those affinities (both theoretical and practical) that the two movements shared, particularly in the early years, as expressed in their essential approaches towards the creative process, as well as in their attitudes regarding the ultimate results of artistic activity and the role of art in society. In contrast to these elements of kinship, I shall also briefly touch on those fundamental artistic and theoretical differences that divided them. An essential element in this consideration is the way in which the two movements adapted to the changing political and cultural situation of the late 1910s and 1920s.
Christina Lodder is President of the Malevich Society, Honorary Professor of History of Art at the University of Kent, UK, and co-editor of Brill’s Russian History and Culture series. She has written extensively on Russian art of the early twentieth century, and her publications include Russian Constructivism (1983), Constructing Modernity: The Art and Career of Naum Gabo (co-author, 2000), Gabo on Gabo (co-editor, 2000), Constructive Strands in Russian Art (2005), Rethinking Malevich (co-editor with Charlotte Douglas), Utopian Reality (co-editor, 2013); and Aleksei Gan’s Constructivism (translator, editor, author of introduction, 2013).
This paper addresses the significance of textiles for the establishment and acceptance of the Suprematist movement in the 1910s, and the importance of Suprematism for the development of new approaches in avant-garde textiles during the 1920s.
While searching for a new pictorial language, abstract artists often used a “lesser” medium as a way of exploring innovative ideas. The same was true of Suprematism, whose first public manifestation was in the form of embroidery at the Exhibition of Contemporary Decorative Art. Embroidery and Rugs Designed by Artists. This exhibition opened on November 6, 1915, several weeks before the legendary 0.10 exhibition of Suprematist paintings. Suprematist designs for embroidery were largely the channel through which other avant-garde artists absorbed the newly born movement. Suprematist embroidery and fabric designs by Malevich and his students were a medium for disseminating the new visual system of Suprematism into the real world.
Later, in the 1920s, the experience with Suprematist textiles helped artists find new approaches to fabric design, which in their turn became relevant to easel art in the 1950s and 1960s.
Julia Tulovsky is an art historian specializing in Russian and European avant-garde art and design of the 1920s, who also has a strong interest in contemporary Russian art. She holds her PhD from Moscow State University and her research focuses on the interconnections between the Russian and European avant-gardes, and the extension of avant-garde ideas into the second half of the twentieth century. She is currently associate curator of Russian and Soviet Nonconformist Art at the Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Prior to this, she worked as assistant curator at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. Since 2001, she has served as executive director of the Malevich Society in New York. She has published widely on Russian art (avant-garde and contemporary), both in Russian and in English. She is currently completing a book Avant-Garde of the 1920s: Textile Designs, to be published by Tatlin Press in 2016.
Suprematist Porcelain and its Afterlife in Leningrad Design
In addition to its immense symbolic meaning and iconic status in twentieth-century art, Malevich’s Black Square appeared as a design module and even a trademark in the sphere of artistic porcelain. The brief cooperation of Malevich and his students with the Petrograd Porcelain Factory in the early 1920s had a crucial impact not only the development of Suprematism’s visual language, but also on incipient Soviet design. Due to its sensory qualities – whiteness, shine, and plasticity – porcelain offered an excellent ground for experiments with super-graphics as well as with volumetric Suprematist forms.
This paper discusses the new approaches to form and decoration in porcelain developed by Malevich, Ilya Chashnik, Lazar Khidekel, and, in particular, Nikolai Suetin. In addition, it traces the legacy of Suprematist porcelain in the post-war production of the Leningrad Porcelain Factory – not only the works of Malevich’s students Suetin, Anna Leporskaia and Eduard Krimmer, but also in those of the younger generation of designers. Thus, my paper takes Suprematist porcelain as the entry into a more nuanced story of twentieth-century Russian art and design, focusing on subtle continuities rather than shifts and ruptures.
Yulia Karpova holds an MA in Art History from Alexander von Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy, St. Petersburg, and a PhD in History from the Central European University, Budapest. Her research interests include Russian and European avant-gardes and their legacies, late socialism, and global cultural transfers of the cold war era. In 2014 she conducted research on the afterlife of Suprematism in Soviet applied arts and design of the late 1950s - 1960s. Her recently defended doctoral dissertation explores the formation of a new aesthetics in Soviet Russia after Stalin. Currently she teaches the course "Advanced Russian Source Reading in Historiography" at the Central European University.
Suprematism in Eastern Europe: A Shortcut into the Future
Malevich’s works and ideas were known to select groups and artists in Eastern Europe during the interwar period. His most direct contact was with the artists – especially K. Kobro and W. Strzeminski whom he had encountered in SVOMAS as early as 1919, and who were among the founders of the Polish avant-garde group Blok in 1924. Their criticism of Suprematism (Stazewski, 1924) reflects also their profound absorption of it.
For many East Europeans who lived in Berlin, the first opportunity to encounter Malevich’s works was the First Russian Art Exhibition in Berlin, October 1922, which was reviewed by several East-European avant-garde artists and critics, including Lajos Kassák, Ernő Kállai, Alfréd Kemény, and Branko Ve Poljanski. These reviewers singled out Malevich as one of the most outstanding, or the most outstanding artist in Russia, and thereby set the tone for Malevich’s later reception in Eastern Europe.
Excerpts of Malevich’s writings were published in the 1925 Europa Almanach in Potsdam, which made its way to Hungary, and the painter Lajos Vajda (1908-1941) made 11 pages of detailed notes on it, which were unknown until they were displayed in the Hungarian National Gallery’s Vajda retrospective of 2008. These writings of Malevich profoundly influenced Vajda, who created several works at the time, reflecting the influence of the Soviet-Russian avant-garde.
Malevich’s fairly well documented 1927 trip to Poland was an occasion to celebrate him and his work, but also produced M. Szczuka’s article “The Funeral of Suprematism,” a sharp critique and position-taking against the trend and Malevich’s core concepts. Malevich’s subsequent solo exhibition in Berlin as well as the thoroughly streamlined publication of his book Die gegenstandslose Welt as a Bauhaus Book that same year, brought awareness of his work and artistic concepts to the world outside Russia, including Eastern Europe. As well as producing highly positive reviews of the exhibition, it also resulted in László Moholy-Nagy inviting Malevich to join the “Painting and Photography” debate that Moholy moderated in the journal i 10. Malevich sent in his contribution, which was not published, probably because Moholy disagreed with his pro-painting (as opposed to pro-photography) views. Malevich’s attitude was seen as idiosyncratic, and even if this text did not become known until a few decades ago, his reputation for being independent from mainstream art and mainstream discourse greatly contributed to the post-war myth in Eastern Europe of him being the most free spirited artist of his time.
In my talk I would like to illustrate the above episodes concerning Malevich’s reception in Eastern Europe as the foundation for his ongoing importance in the region.
Eva Forgacs is an art historian, art critic and curator. She was professor at the László Moholy-Nagy University in her native Budapest, and worked as curator at the Hungarian Museum of Decorative Arts. She has a PhD in Art History from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and has published a number of essays and monographs on various aspects of Modernism in edited volumes, textbooks, and journals. Her main field of research and study has been the history of the Bauhaus. She relocated to Los Angeles in 1993, and has been teaching at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, since 1994. Forgacs was co-curator (with Nancy Perloff) of Monuments of the Future: Designs by El Lissitzky at the Getty Research Institute, in November 1998, and was consultant at LACMA's Central European Avant-Gardes exhibition in 2002. She is Vice President of SHERA (Society of Historians of Russian and East European Art and Architecture), has served as book-review editor of Centropa, is Advisory Board member of EAM (European Network of Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies), and is member-elect of the International Academic Committee of the Bauhaus Institute, Chinese Academy of Art. Forgacs was awarded a EURIAS scholarship, and was a research fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna, Austria in 2012-2013. She has contributed to numerous international conferences on the Bauhaus and Central European art and architecture. Her books include The Bauhaus Idea and Bauhaus Politics (CEU Press, 1991, 1995 - also 2 Greek editions, and Turkish translation in press), and Between Worlds: A Sourcebook of Central European Avant-Gardes (co-edited with T. O. Benson, The MIT Press, 2002).
Malevich's Systematic Approach and its Aftermath in Contemporary Architecture and Visual Cultures
This paper focuses on the legacy of Malevich’s systematic method and its cross-disciplinary potential, with a special emphasis on contemporary architectural practices. This paper seeks to discover how a particular mode of knowledge production, archiving and transmitting information launched in Vitebsk in the early 1920s, became a means of “cognitum” and survival in the face of political and economic realities during the second wave of the avant-garde, and even more radical in today’s architectural practices. Reading this legacy against the histories of new technologies and neo-scientific discourse might allow us to investigate the new frontiers of Suprematist thought, as well as to decode the complexity of metaphors and tropes it unfolds.
Xenia Vytuleva is an architecture historian, theorist and curator. Born in Moscow, and educated in Moscow and Cambridge, UK, her research focuses on new modes of conceptual preservation, the intersection of art, science and politics, Cold-War architecture and re-thinking the legacies of the avant-garde. She currently teaches at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, Columbia University, New York. Dr. Vytuleva writes extensively on the interconnection of provocative avant-garde thought, contemporary cultures and new media. Her recent projects include: “Music on Bones,” MAXXI Museum, Rome, Experimental Preservation, CCCP Observatory at Venice Architectural Biennale 2014, and “Straying; the Book of Instructions” at Slought Foundation, Philadelphia. Among other awards and grants is a recent award from the Graham Foundation for the project “Cold-War Secret Spaces.” She is currently working on “An Atlas of Untold Territories.”
Researching the Russian Edition
This presentation traces the story of the publication Malevich about Himself. Contemporaries about Malevich. Letters. Documents. Recollections. Criticism. Irina Vakar and Tatiana Mikhienko, eds. 2 vols. (Moscow: RA, 2004; English edition, London: Tate, 2015). The talk will discuss the initial stimulus for the project and the way in which it subsequently developed.
Our aim was to increase the corpus of Malevich material available to scholars, relating both to the artist’s creative activities as well as to his private life. The project involved devoting a great deal of energy to locating archival documents, letters, and photographs, many of which we then published for the first time. Our discovery of new facts has contributed to the demystification of Malevich, although in some instances it has had the opposite effect of confirming information that had previously been attributed to the artist's myth-making tendencies.
Our communications with relatives, friends and followers of Malevich, who were still alive when the book was being written, produced an extraordinary amount of previously unknown and often surprising material. This material has clarified aspects of Malevich’s biography, has proffered new insights into his personality, and has sometimes challenged current ways of thinking about him.
The English edition contains a number of corrections, clarifications, and some previously unpublished material.
Tatiana Mikhienko is an art historian specializing in Russian art of the first half of the twentieth century. She gained her PhD in the history and theory of art from Moscow State University in 1978 and since then has published numerous scholarly articles about the Russian avant-garde, including the work of Kazimir Malevich and his circle. As a curator at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, she co-organized the gallery’s permanent display of pre-war twentieth-century Russian painting. She has also contributed extensively to other exhibitions, collection management projects, academic catalogues, and various museum publications.
Publishing the Russian Edition
The publication Kazimir Malevich: Letters and Documents, Memoirs and Criticism has a long history. Irina Vakar and Tatiana Mikhienko, who are eminent Malevich scholars and colleagues at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, began to collect materials relating to the artist’s biography in the 1980s. Although they commissioned some of the texts, such as Konstantin Rozhdestvenskii’s recollections, other memoirs were diligently amassed from a wide range of people. These included relatives of the artist: his daughter Una Kazimirovna, his younger sister Viktoria Zaitseva, and others. The authors also tracked down documents by the artist’s friends and associates such as Ivan Kliun, Mikhail Larionov, Aleksei Morgunov, and Mikhail Matiushin – amounting in all to over 60 cultural figures from Russia, Poland, and Germany. The numerous letters and documents included the registration of Malevich's baptism, which proved that he was born in 1879, not in 1878 as he had claimed.
All of the materials were presented to the Moscow publishing house, The Russian Avant-Garde, where the scholars Vasilii Rakitin, Nik Il’in and Alberto Sandretti were closely involved in preparing the two volumes for publication. The Malevich Society also played a major role in the project and provided financial support, without which the publication would not have been possible.
Andrei Sarabianov holds a PhD in art history and is the director of the Moscow publishing house The Russian Avant-Garde. He is also director of the Center for the Avant-Garde at the Jewish Museum and the Center for Tolerance, located in Moscow.
Antonina W. Bouis:
Kazimir Malevich created a language in painting that turned the world upside down. He also created a language in his theoretical writing for describing what he was doing and teaching. Translating his writings presents several challenges. First, naturally, is the newness of his worldview, which led him to create neologisms. Second, there is the problem of the quality of his language; a lot is almost impenetrable, not only because of the ideas, but because he is not a writer, and has less-than-perfect Russian, sprinkled with Polish and Ukrainian words and syntax. He was not able to express himself clearly. Many of his pronouncements puzzled his readers, even his colleagues, and certainly his translators.
This has led to inaccuracies in the translations, especially those done without a broad understanding of the context. It is important to know the art scene of the time, with its internecine struggles for supremacy, the political environment and its revolutionary fervor, in order to convey Malevich’s ideas.
In the Vakar-Mikhienko volumes, several key documents have been translated for the first time; others appear in new translation. For example, Malevich’s Suprematist manifesto, Мир как беспредметность, was first translated misleadingly as The Non-Objective World, a term that stuck for decades. It has been rendered properly here as The World As Objectlessness and was used by the Basel Kunstmuseum’s exhibition of the artist’s preliminary drawings for the Bauhaus publication of the manifesto in German.
Antonina W. Bouis has translated many contemporary Russian writers including Volkov, Dovlatov, Yevtushenko, the Strugatsky brothers, and Radzinsky. As executive director of George Soros's foundations in the USSR, she travelled extensively to represent him. Her 80 translations for major publishers range from memoirs (Sakharov, Bonner, Plisetskaya) and economic history (Yavlinsky, Gaidar) to fiction (Voznesensky, Rybakov, Bulgakov, Lebedev) and art (Malevich, Kabakov), as well as numerous essays for exhibition catalogues (In Search of 0,10—The Last Futurist Exhibition, Fondation Beyeler; Malevich: The World as Objectlessness, Kunstmuseum Basel; Breaking the Ice: Moscow Conceptualists, Saatchi Gallery; Edgar Degas: Figures in Motion, Hermitage). She is on the board of Track II: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy and the advisory board of the Hermitage Museum Foundation, and she is a member of The Council on Foreign Relations and PEN’s Translation Committee. Fluent in Russian and French, she holds a master's degree from Columbia University and is a graduate of Barnard College. She lives in New York City.
Editing Malevich: The Challenges of Preparing Irina Vakar and Tatiana Mikhienko's Monumental Publication for an English-speaking Audience
The editorial challenge was to communicate the nuances of Malevich’s thought and the inimitable quality and quirks of his voice, with its characteristic neologisms and idiosyncratic capitalization, while preserving the distinctive voices of all those with whom he came into contact, from family members, friends and disciples, to bureaucrats, critics, and enemies. Malevich emerges from this kaleidoscope of documents as a towering figure, operating within an entire avant-garde ecosystem.
Wendy Salmond is professor of art history in the Department of Art at Chapman University, Orange, California. Her publications include Arts and Crafts in Late Imperial Russia: Reviving the Kustar Art Industries; Treasures into Tractors: The Selling of Russia’s Cultural Heritage, 1918-1938 (co-edited with Anne Odom); and Tradition in Transition: Russian Icons in the Age of the Romanovs. She is a prolific translator of texts on Russian art and culture, and has edited volumes on the sculptor Sergei Konenkov, the Peredvizhniki, and the reception of Art Nouveau in Russia. Her current research is on icons in the late Imperial and early Soviet period.