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Hommage à Malevich: Black Square Continued Print E-mail
Written by Milena Tomic (Montréal)   
Friday, 16 October 2015 15:21

Fig. 1: Vlado Martek, “Yugoslavia – Malevich,” 1984. Cardboard, tempera, 20.5 x 14.5 cm. Image courtesy of the artist.Curated by Mateja Podlesnik at Ljubljana's City Art Gallery to mark the centenary of Kazimir Malevich's Black Square (1915), Hommage à Malevich: Black Square Continued tracks artistic references to Suprematism from late-socialist Yugoslavia and its later independent former republics. The significance of this shared reference is found in two works by Vlado Martek, a Croatian poet and artist, that hang roughly at the midpoint of the exhibition's first floor. Started in the same year that an anthology of the Suprematist's writings appeared in translation,(Kazimir Severinovich Malevich and Slobodan Mijusković, Kazimir Maljevič: suprematizam, bespredmetnost: tekstovi, dokumenti, tumačenja [Kazimir Malevich: Suprematism, Non-Objectivity: Texts, Documents, Interpretations (Belgrade, Student Publishing Center, 1980).) the series Artists, Read Malevich (1980–2002) is here represented by six framed pieces of paper on which Martek wrote that injunction in different languages. On an adjacent wall, Yugoslavia – Malevich (1984), a tiny tempera on cardboard, adds the Russian artist's last name to a lumpy red representation of the country (fig. 1). As the protected color of communism, red could not be appropriated at will; Martek's reclaiming of it for an alternative vision to the socialist modernism promoted by the state hints at how post-conceptual artists working across these territories in the early 1980s were in a better position to "read Malevich" than their American counterparts, who were largely drawn to the combination of reductive formalism and vague revolutionary potential.(For more details on Malevich's American reception, see Alison McDonald and Ealan Wingate, eds, Malevich and the American Legacy, exh. cat. (New York: Gagosian Gallery, 2011).)

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