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Kazimir Malevich, Black Quadrilateral, n.d., oil on canvas, 6 3/4 × 9 1/2".

“Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015”

Whitechapel Gallery

Kazimir Malevich, Black Quadrilateral, n.d., oil on canvas, 6 3/4 × 9 1/2".

“ADVENTURES OF THE BLACK SQUARE” begins with a rectangle: Kazimir Malevich’s undated little quadrilateral from the Costakis Collection. The painting is small and squat, and its lateral format pulls it dangerously close to representational traditions of landscape, but the piece nevertheless encapsulates some of the most vital features of Malevich’s earliest excursions into Suprematism. Multiple brushstrokes build the shape, as if to show that the artist arrived at the composition only as the result of minute, painstaking deliberations reminiscent of Cézanne. In spite of this meticulous building-up of paint, the form is bold, even ruthless in its domination of the composition’s center. At the same time, and quite remarkably, the shape dares to be to be a bit jaunty. Slightly acute at its upper right corner, the black rectangle (like several of Malevich’s Suprematist works) seems to

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