Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art – reviews

Jul 17, 2014

The Mona Lisa of modernism, Black Square, is the centrepiece of Tate Modern's compelling survey show

Krasnodar Territorial Art Museum
What you need to know

A major exhibition of the work of Russian modern artist Kazimir Malevich - Malevich: Revolutionary of Russian Art - has opened at Tate Modern. Malevich lived and worked during one of the most turbulent periods of Russian history, encompassing the end of Tsarist Russia, the First World War and the October Revolution.

The exhibition charts his artistic journey during this time, from his early paintings of Russian landscapes, agricultural workers, folk and religious scenes, towards abstract painting and his Suprematist masterpieces, including Black Square. Runs until 26 October.

What the critics like

First, go and see that Mona Lisa of modernism, Malevich's iconic Black Square, which "you are unlikely to find it displayed so evocatively again in your lifetime", says Rachel Campbell Johnston in The Times. Then go back and explore this massive show, which presents the viewer with an unprecedentedly rich and expansive view across a career and takes you on a journey into an artist's imagination.

Malevich's many lives of appear in this "fascinating" and extensive retrospective, says Adrian Searle in The Guardian. The partial reconstruction of his 1915 Black Square exhibition is full of life and energy, but there's also a wonderful room of drawings that could be an exhibition all its own.

The iconic Black Square is inevitably the fulcrum of this "beautifully paced and compelling" show, says Ben Luke in the Evening Standard. But it's essentially a drama in three acts: the early years before Black Square, the epiphany of abstraction, then Malevich's later years and his attempts to reconcile Suprematism with figuration.

What they don't like

This is an odd exhibition not just because of the stops and starts of Malevich's painting career but because it overwhelms the viewer in "a tidal wave of words and images", says Richard Dorment in the Daily Telegraph. An indigestible gallery of charts and graphs and an enormous stand-alone survey of graphic work surround the iconic Black Square, and this kind of overkill can be counterproductive.

Photo Credit:

Kazimir Malevich, Supremus No. 55 1916
Krasnodar Territorial Art Museum

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