The exhibition will offer an exhaustive portrait of a key 20th-century figure who experienced one of the most intense historical and artistic periods of the era.
It will present approximately 70 works by Kazimir Malevich, alongside a large body of works by leading Russian artists who were part of the art movements of the early 20th century, as well as documents and videos.
For the first time in Italy, GAMeC is hosting the revival of the show Victory over the Sun, the first complete work of music, art, poetry and theatre.
From 2 October 2015 to 17 January 2016, GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo is hosting an important retrospective devoted to Kazimir Malevich (Kiev, 1878 – Leningrad [St Petersburg], 1935), a key 20th-century figure who experienced one of the most intense historical and artistic periods of the era.
Curated by Eugenia Petrova, Vice-director of the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg, and Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, Director of GAMeC, the exhibition is co-produced by GAMeC and GAmm – Giunti Arte mostre musei, in collaboration with the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg. Unique in its completeness and because of the careful historical and critical investigation it has entailed, it will present approximately 70 works by Kazimir Malevich, alongside a large body of works by leading Russian artists who were part of the art movements of the early 20th century, as well as documents and videos.
Malevich is internationally considered part of the pioneering triad that opened new paths in the art of the 20th century. Whereas Picasso made the biggest contribution to renewal of the figurative tradition and Duchamp of the conceptual tradition, it was Malevich who brought to life the primacy of the tradition of abstract art that is still so decisive today.
He was a key figure for the last century and continues to be today, thanks to his complex production that goes beyond abstract art alone and the birth of Suprematism, a crucial current for the development of 20th century.
In fact, Malevich was a multifaceted artist. After beginning his career as a Symbolist and Neo-Impressionist, after reconsidering the conquests of the art that made inroads in Paris in the late 19th century he embraced the development of Cubo-Futurism, a movement that summed up the conquests of both the French Cubism of Braque and Picasso as well as the Italian Futurism of Balla and Boccioni. This marked an initial path shared by other contemporary Russian artists such as Kandinsky, with whom he participated in the first collective avant-garde exhibitions.
Malevich’s Symbolist period opens the exhibition itinerary, from the 1906 paintings depicting landscapes with rows of trees to the 1907 self-portrait with a red bow, which does not ignore the lesson of the Fauves. These works will be juxtaposed with those preceding them chronologically by the Symbolist master Ilya Repin and coeval works by Natalya Goncharova, Bleaching Canvas (1908), and Mikhail Yakovlev, Holy Grove (1904–1907).
It continues with an in-depth section on the 1910s. In fact, in 1913 Malevich worked with other artists to draft the Manifesto of the First Futurist Congress, and designed the sets and costumes for the show Victory over the Sun by Aleksei Kruchenykh with music by Mikhail Matyushin (the exhibition will feature a video and the reconstruction of 19 costumes), in which we can glean the early seeds of Suprematism, with the first hint of Black Square.
This was also the period of famous paintings – all of which on display – such as Cow and Violin (1913), Portrait of Ivan Kliun (1913), Composition with the Mona Lisa (1914) and several drawings from the same years, set alongside the canvases Malorossy (Ukrainians) (1912) by David Burliuk, Composition with an Accordion (1914) by Jean Pougny, and Cyclist (1913) by Natalya Goncharova.
These were the years in which, at the Last Futurist Exhibition 0.10 staged in 1915, Malevich launched Suprematism, aiming to assert the supremacy of the pure sensitivity of art, which would be applied not only in sculpture but also in architecture and design, above all on the level of experimentation and modelling.
In this section we can admire masterpieces such as Red Square (1915) and the coeval Suprematism (1915–1916), and his best-known work, Black Square, along with Black Circle and Black Cross (1923).
The 1920s represented a period of the greatest theoretical expansion for Malevich, who abandoned “the bristling paintbrush for the sharp pen” to devote himself to writing, notes and drawings. This decade concentrated the Suprematist core that revealed far more advanced research with respect to what emerged in the works of other colleagues, such as Portrait of a Philosopher. Cubist Construction (1915) by Lyubov Popova and Suprematism by Olga Rozanova. In addition, several Russian icons from the 14th and 15th centuries will be on display, documenting that Malevich drew inspiration from such works.
Alongside Malevich’s pictorial works there will also be examples of his production tied to design and architecture, testifying to the idea of avant-garde total art aimed at eliminating the boundaries between art and life. These include the Architektony plastics from the 1920s that transmit the utopia of the future city imagined at the time, the enamel paintings on porcelain and the canvases-projects for fabrics with Suprematist motifs, which Malevich began to create in 1919, the watercolours Tribune for Orators and Schematic Principle of a Mural Painting (1920), and sketches for Suprematist clothing (1923).
While the Suprematist works are the heart of the exhibition, they do not complete the investigation on Malevich’s artistic evolution, which extended to 1934, a year before his death.
In fact, the exhibition itinerary continues by investigating two other periods, in which we can note the progressive Stalinization of Russia, which censored artists and intellectuals, and pushed them to embrace the dictates of Socialist realism. Forced to remain in Russia, Malevich initially responded to this limitation with figurative art, juxtaposing geometric areas of colour with faces to form male and female mannequins evoking the theatre costumes he designed in 1913. In these, the heads – faceless ovals – marked the effacement of the individual under way during this period, and to a certain extent they evoke the mannequins of Giorgio de Chirico.
Malevich’s research did not give in completely to the dictates of the regime and, indeed, Suprematism continues to be evident in many cases. One example is Red House (1932), in which the wall sustaining the roof is none other than a reference to Red Square.
The exhibition also hosts an important series of works executed in the final years of his life, composed of about fifteen oils in which, despite the assault of the dictatorship, we can see that his painting continues to show innovative and unique expressive power evident in the depiction of the same subjects examined simultaneously by other artists, such as Race (1932–1933) by Aleksandr Deineka, Militarized Komsomol (1932–1933) by Alexander Samokhvalov and Fantasia (1925) by Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin.
This creative and inventive force is also evident in the last section, with a return to a certain “realism”, the subjects of which were at the centre of Malevich’s reflection from his earliest works, particularly those of the working and peasant classes.
For the exhibition, GAMeC’s Educational Department is promoting the project Tutti Pazzi Per Malevich, with the aim of building a network of collaboration linking institutions, associations, offices of the City of Bergamo and the province, uniting them in a network of excellence.
Supported by the Culture Office of the Municipality of Bergamo, the project is a high-quality cultural investment in the city in which GAMeC takes the lead in a new way to make the most of the resources generated by the exhibitions.
All the events will be documented on the website www.mostramalevic.it
Catalogue by GAmm Giunti.
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2 October 2015 - 17 January 2016
GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea di Bergamo
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Thursday: 9 am – 10 pm
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Internet: www.mostramalevic.it; www.tuttipazzipermalevic.it
Catalogue: GAmm Giunti
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