THREE BY MALEVICH
Posted on 3 February, 2016
The dazzling Russian avant-garde exhibition at the Fine Arts Palace in Mexico City (October 22, 2015-February 7, 2016) provides a perfect opportunity to present three articles by Kazimir Malevich, the creator of suprematism, whose influence on the critical practice of the arts is perhaps greater today than it was a century ago, when the depths of his work were only beginning to be sounded.
Contemporaneous with one of Malevich’s emblematic pieces, the oil painting “White on White”, and published by the aptly named magazine “Anarchy” between March and July 1918, during the most difficult time for the nascent Soviet state, a time of hunger, imperialist invasion and civil war, these articles are a testimony to the positions held by those revolutionary artists and intellectuals reluctant to embrace the dialectics of contradictory and complex instituent practices of the Soviet aesthetic regime, passionately bent as they were on establishing communism without any delays or compromises. The issues of popular power, cultural heritage, the historical break, the dissolution of burgeois artistic discourse, and the re-configuration of the arts as productive processes of signification towards socialism, were already embryonically present in those early debates and controversies which found in Malevich a penetrating protagonist.
Translated from the Russian by Alfredo Gurza
THE TASKS OF ART AND THE RÔLE OF THE STRANGLERS
In a time of radical change of the old way of life, when all that is new and young strives to find its form and express its I, the dead crawl still and try to clutch all living things with their frozen hands.
The social revolution tears open the shackles of capitalist slavery, but it has not as yet destroyed the old tables of aesthetic values. And now that the new construction begins, the construction of new cutural values, we must protect ourselves from the poison of burgeois banality.
Behold the high priests of burgeois taste, the kings of criticism: Benois, Tugendhold and company.
Until now, no work of art could aspire to the right of citizenship and the good life without Benois’ imprimatur.
Thus it was with Vrubel, Musatov, P. Kuznetsov, Goncharova, who were accepted only after having had mud heaped upon them. And so much is left to be recognized!
Young artists and innovators who refused to compromise had to make their own way with great difficulties.
It was imposible to expect that their products would be bought without the recommendation of the “stranglers”.
But selling a painting was the only way an artist could buy food and pay for a room.
The place of art was haphazard, at the mercy of critics and collectors.
Even the Tretyakov Gallery was established by accident
Every private art collection was gathered at the whim of owners and dealers.
And those artists who failed to win access to the privileged exhibitions of the Russian Artists Union, of “The World of Art” and “The Wanderers”, were left behind.
And now that the burgeoisie has joined the ranks of the unemployed and democracy is creating a proletarian culture, it turns out the wily Benois holds the future of Russian art in his hands.
Benois heads the Petrograd Arts Council!
Once again an oficial closed border rises before the life of art.
Once again the persecutors of art are victorious!
Once again, the same old faces around the table.
Once again the dead stretch their bony hands towards the lamp to extinguish the light.
But this shall not be!
Out with the executioners of art! Let them lounge around the cemetery!
Out with the merchants of the cellars of art!
Make way for the new forces!
We are the innovators, come to life at the precise moment to open up the cells and free the prisoners!
Aleksei Gan, Aleksei Morgunov, Kazimir Malevich
Anarchy, N° 25
FOR THE NEW FACE
Let us clear the area of all the old rubble. March on towards the temples of our face!
Let us cleanse ourselves of the accumulation of forms belonging to past centuries.
It is imperative that we give time a new rhythm. Let us avoid the roads dotted with cemetery crosses, for they lead only to defunct days.
Your face is worn away like an ancient coin, scrubbed with the centuries-old rag of the authorities until your former face, beautiful and joyful, has been erased.
We strive to polish your soul and your creative spirit in the image of long-extinct gods, which your sly ego rejected.
And you became the stone killed by Michelangelo in the name of the past and the future.
But we managed to emerge, casting aside the authorities, and created this face.
And we stake our claim on this area and its forms.
Let Praxiteles, Phidias, Raphael, Rubens and the rest be cast down to dungeons and cemeteries.
Let them hold a vigil for deceased time.
Let them carry the remains of that ego.
Out of our time and our forms we create a face sealed by this era, that it may be recognized in the flow of time.
Anarchy, N° 28
TO THE NEW FACE
Brilliant lacquer, refined lines and color all perish.
We reveal new pages of art in the dawn of anarchy.
For he first time we cross the threshold of art, opening up a new front against lacquered Art.
For years we developped by the dozens. Under the freezing attic roofs we hid from the power of the authorities, drilling our way forward.
We did not succumb to the pressure of the tidal waves of ignorant criticism which fell upon us.
Articles-progroms decorate our heads.
Nail-words, rusty and old, hammered into our consciousness.
But now the field is open. Their spite was in vain.
A powerful revolutionary storm demolished the attic and we, like a cloud in space, sail on towards liberty.
The banner of anarchy, the banner of our I, our spirit -free as the wind- swirls around the creative spaces of the soul.
You, young and joyful, cast aside without delay the debris of the wreck.
Wash your hands if ever they are touched by the power of the authorities.
And heartily join in to build peace in the minds of our time.
Anarchy, N° 31
Kazimir Malevich, Blanco sobre blanco, 1918.
Kazimir Malevich, Autorretrato, 1933.
Kazimir Malevich, Composición suprematista, 1915.
Kazimir Malevich, Caballería Roja, 1928-1932.