“Black Square”

Hamburger Kunsthalle

SINCE ITS INTRODUCTION to the public in 1915 at “The Last Futurist Exhibition ‘0.10’” in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square has intrigued and bewildered artists and critics searching for its meaning. Varvara Stepanova, Malevich’s fellow avant-gardist, conveyed the painting’s conceptual instability when in 1919 she concluded in her diary: “If we look at the square without mystical faith, as if it were a real earthy fact, then what is it?” This reluctance to accept Black Square on a strictly formal basis has endured. Indeed, any hope that the recent exhibition in Hamburg would finally clear Malevich’s famous canvas of all charges related to mysticism was dispelled by a press release in which curator Hubertus Gassner described Black Square as a “passage into another, spiritual world,” equating it with “the traditional conception of the icon as a visual representation

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