Selection of Reviews on the Malevich Exhibition in the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin
While two museums in Frankfurt are currently celebrating
figurative painting's comeback, the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin is concentrating
on the highpoint of abstraction with the exhibition Kasimir Malevich:
Suprematism. The critics have been enthusiastic – and surprised! Who
would have thought that a black square could have such an effect following
decades of abstract painting?
Christian Semler describes
it best in the taz: "What's a classic? Someone one quotes without
really investigating closely again. Kasimir Malevich is a classic of non-objective
painting: hence incorporated, finished. And so the impression that arises
while walking around the Malevich exhibition in the Deutsche Guggenheim
Berlin is all the more surprising. One might have felt obligated to show
a quasi antiquated, polite interest in this avant-gardist. Square, cross,
circle – we know all that already. And then we're overwhelmed by their
immediate effect, by the paintings' grip. One expected to enter a kind
of discursive space, where fundamental elements of color and form are introduced
in an analytical manner. Instead, we as visitors get a hint of something
that Malevich called the 'spirit of non-objective perception.'"
the Frankfurter Rundschau, Ulrich Clewing is amazed
that Malevich's paintings are "as fresh and modern as they were the day
they were made," despite his "muddled and outdated" theories. "In any case,
the formal language the artist arrived at back then is still very close
to us today. Viewing the rectangles, bars, and thin lines striving from
one side of the canvas to another with an interstellar dynamics, one could
at times surmise that their effect has prevailed to this day – where they've
become imbedded in art, advertising, design, and the general everyday aesthetic
in such an enduring way that the viewer takes them to be completely self-evident."
In the Tagesspiegel, Bernhard Schulz sees
it similarly: "However one might evaluate Malevich's treatises, which
are difficult to comprehend without taking the historical and philosophical
context of the Russian art discussion following 1900 into account: what
can be seen in the Guggenheim exhibition are wonderful compositions containing
an equilibrium of tension made by a painter capable of creating relationships
between color and form that had never been seen before." Along with the
familiar paintings from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Schulz is happy
to discover "delightful discoveries from the museums in Krasnodar or Ekaterinburg
– or from Japan, where that surprising painting comes from, the upwards-swinging
form that's by no means angular and square."
While Michael Diers
from the Süddeutsche Zeitung does not completely agree with the
exhibition's concentration on Malevich's suprematist phase, he nonetheless
does indeed seem to fall
prey to the paintings' sheer beauty. "The Guggenheim exhibition prefers
the painter cleansed of historical and political waste. Apart from very
few references, the apparently inconsistent, inconstant later works as
well as their origin in the art of the 19th century have been omitted …
as a result, however, the other, more political, evidently less favored
side of Malevich's oeuvre, which was in part made parallel to the non-objective
works, is left out entirely. What remains is an image of sheer triumph.
That's a stylization, even an abstraction that neglects what the artist
had to overcome in terms of concrete resistance, what he was forced to
adapt to. In this sense, the exhibition is much too beautiful to be true."
In the Welt, Gabriela Walde remarks
that the "Guggenheim Berlin has managed a coup again – while the USA are
plagued by a decrease in the numbers of visitors, the German Guggenheim
branch has picked up enormously. With over 600,000 visitors in only five
years, it's worked its way up to become one of the most diversified and
international exhibition locations of the capital. And now the current
exhibition, with over 80 works by Kasimir Malevich, the pioneer of abstract
painting, is a little sensation, as well: many of the works are on loan
from Russian museums and are being shown in the West for the first time
because cooperation had been blocked for decades by the Soviet regime."
Vera Görgen from the Financial Times is also impressed by
the expressive power of the abstract forms: "Square, rectangle, circle.
That is the formal vocabulary that the Russian artist Kasimir Malevich
reduced his painting to. It is fascinating to see how he succeeds in setting
the static forms of his paintings in dynamic movement. The monochrome squares
of yellow, red, or blue seem to dance, as though they were jumping for
joy or floating on invisible strings like a lightweight mobile."
Translation: Andrea Scrima