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Synopsis

Kazimir Malevich’s painting Black Square is one of the twentieth century's emblematic paintings, the visual manifestation of a new period in world artistic culture at its inception. None of Malevich’s contemporary revolutionaries created a manifesto, an emblem, as capacious and in its own way unique as this work; it became both the quintessence of the Russian avant-gardist's own art—which he called Suprematism—and a milestone on the highway of world art. Writing about this single painting, Aleksandra Shatskikh sheds new light on Malevich, the Suprematist movement, and the Russian avant-garde.

Malevich devoted his entire life to explicating Black Square's meanings. This process engendered a great legacy: the original abstract movement in painting and its theoretical grounding; philosophical treatises; architectural models; new art pedagogy; innovative approaches to theater, music, and poetry; and the creation of a new visual environment through the introduction of decorative applied designs. All of this together spoke to the tremendous potential for innovative shape and thought formation concentrated in Black Square.

To this day, many circumstances and events of the origins of Suprematism have remained obscure and have sprouted arbitrary interpretations and fictions. Close study of archival materials and testimonies of contemporaries synchronous to the events described has allowed this author to establish the true genesis of Suprematism and its principal painting.

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