London

Goshka Macuga, Drawing no. 4. ‘Path of Movement of a Point’ After K. Malevich (1922), 2003, sand-blasted mirror, 48 × 72".

Goshka Macuga, Drawing no. 4. ‘Path of Movement of a Point’ After K. Malevich (1922), 2003, sand-blasted mirror, 48 × 72".

Eustachy Kossakowski and Goshka Macuga

Kate MacGarry

Goshka Macuga, Drawing no. 4. ‘Path of Movement of a Point’ After K. Malevich (1922), 2003, sand-blasted mirror, 48 × 72".

The point of departure for “Report from the Exhibition,” which juxtaposed works by Eustachy Kossakowski and Goshka Macuga, was the oeuvre of Kazimir Malevich, the father of Suprematism and the painter of that cornerstone of modernism Black Square, 1915, an image that the artist made his signature. Though his practice and thought were the foundation of the Russian avant-garde, starting in the late 1920s his work was found to be inconsistent with the official policy of socialist realism and was suppressed by the Soviet government, an act that made it difficult to access for decades. That situation began to change in the late 1980s; a major survey of Malevich’s oeuvre was recently on display at Tate Modern in London.

In “Report from the Exhibition,” selected pieces by Malevich were interpreted in photographs by Kossakowski and in mirror works by Macuga. Kossakowski’s suite of color photographs Report from the Exhibition, shot in 1989 but printed in 2010, depicts four Malevich paintings as they were displayed at the artist’s retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1989. But the work is more than just the neutral, straight photography suggested by its title. Through clever framing, Kossakowski offers his own narration of the Russian peasants depicted by Malevich and introduces the interpretative and creative side of documentary photography. Malevich’s Girls in the Field, 1928–32, shows three silhouettes in blouses and skirts with their arms and hands alongside their bodies. The figures of the women are abstracted to create a colorful pattern on the canvas. By showing just one of them, in a classic three-quarter-length portrait format, the photographer gives the figure a sense of individuality absent from the original painting. In another photograph, the focus is on the hands of two of the figures and their close proximity to each other; Kossakowski seems to express something about the connection between these two women. Just as in his practice as a documentary photographer for the Galeria Foksal in Warsaw from 1966 to 1970, his emphasis here is on individuality and human relationships; his images reflect his own sensibility more than that of Malevich.

Kossakowski’s photographs are reflected in two sandblasted mirrors by Macuga installed on opposite walls of the gallery; titled Drawing no. 5 ‘System of Organizing a First and Second Category Point in Time’ After Malevich (1922) and Drawing no 4. ‘Path of Movement of a Point’ After K. Malevich (1922), both 2003, they adapt little-known sketches. The compositions, originally gray-black on white, have been etched on glass with great precision. The clarity of the white lines conveys the geometric elegance of the original drawings as well as the powerful silence of Malevich’s abstraction.

The movement of forms in space is one of many themes that Malevich explored throughout his career. He noted on one of his drawings, dated ca. 1920, that all things produced by humans can be seen as satellites that travel separately in their own orbits or join together in simultaneous circulation around the globe. Macuga’s mirrors encompass not only the drawings but also their beholders. This, in turn, is a perfect metaphor for the state of knowledge about Malevich’s work, which over the years has been painstakingly generated by the few researchers and curators who gained access to his legacy despite political obstacles. Using photographs and mirrors as the mediators of paintings and drawings, Kossakowski and Macuga address the vast issue of how artists interpret other artists’ work. Consequently, the show evoked essential questions of interpretive transparency, authorship, and the beholder’s share in multiplied reflections of Malevich’s work.

Sylwia Serafinowicz