Adventures of the Black Square – Whitechapel Gallery

Kazimir Malevich, Black Quadrilateral
Kazimir Malevich, Black Quadrilateral

I went to the exhibition ‘Adventures of the Black Square’ at the Whitechapel gallery as it focusses on the impact of Russian Constructivist work over the course of the 100 years since the creation of ‘Black Square’ by Kazimir Malevich. This post is about the pieces that I found to be the most compelling in the show. Unfortunately photography was not permitted so these images have been found on google.

Joseph Albers, Homage to the Square "Post Autumn", 1963
Joseph Albers, Homage to the Square “Post Autumn”, 1963

Albers painting here, paying tribute to Malevich’s square, works through his own colour theory. With each box representing a different shade of the same colour, Albers is discussing how colours can complement each other within the same hue. Being colourblind makes work like this very visually appealing to me, as difference in shade is something I can see whereas when different colours are applied often I cannot.

 Dan Flavin , 'Monument' for V. Tatlin, 1966-9
Dan Flavin , ‘Monument’ for V. Tatlin, 1966-9

I have always been a fan of Flavin’s structuralist fluorescent light works and this piece has also been a favourite of mine and getting to see it in the ‘light’ as it were was a great experience. Within the gallery it was placed in front of a tile work of Carl Andre’s, his contemporary which made for a great contrast.

Heimo Zobenig, Untitled, 1995
Heimo Zobenig, Untitled, 1995

This work by Heimo Zobenig, I feel is a very clever re-addressing of the square. The fluorescent red lights act as the paint and gives a very soft, eerie look that I still can only describe as a painting.

Dora Maurer, Seven Rotations, 1979
Dora Maurer, Seven Rotations, 1979

Again, this idea is a very simple one, yet it achieves a great effect that I just had to include in this post. It was displayed amongst other photographs in the series revealing how it was done.

Adrian Esparza, Leadlight, 2012
Adrian Esparza, Leadlight, 2012

Although the photograph is a different piece (I was unable to find an image of the actual piece), it is very similar. This is by far the piece that I most enjoyed in the whole exhibition. The string is seemingly taken from a poncho, hung to the right. Esparza then unravelling it stretches out patterns such as those in the image, forming 3D illusions of magnificently intricate structures.

Overall the exhibition I thought was a bit too overblown and a bit too packed full of works. The bottom floor also was more successful than the top where newer work was because the newer stuff seemed to be a lot more derivative, rehashing images and ideas of the past whereas the earlier works were more concerned with addressing new perspectives.

Categories: Research, Visits

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