Kazimir Malevich - Suprematist Composition: White on White (1918)
Malevich described his aesthetic theory, known as Suprematism, as "the supremacy of pure feeling or perception in the pictorial arts." He viewed the Russian Revolution as having paved the way for a new society in which materialism would eventually lead to spiritual freedom. This austere painting counts among the most radical paintings of its day, yet it is not impersonal; the trace of the artist's hand is visible in the texture of the paint and the subtle variations of white. The imprecise outlines of the asymmetrical square generate a feeling of infinite space rather than definite borders.
So-called "white paintings" are in museums all across the world and Robert Ryman's all-white painting "Bridge" sold for a record $20.6 million at a Christie's auction in 2015. How are these seemingly plain white paintings considered art and why is it that not anyone can pick up a tube of white paint and make one? We talk to Elisabeth Sherman, an assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York about why there is much more to these paintings than meets the eye, and while you could have painted on of these priceless pieces of art, you didn't.
Written in between 1979 and 1982 and printed in 2010, Jenny Holzer’s “Inflammatory Essays” employ her so-called “truisms," gleaned from popular ideas and ideologies. Rather than being projected in public spaces or casting them aglow in LED, here sentences form individual “essays.” Originally pasted around New York City, many of the texts reveal the polemical tone of manifestos, as they are oftentimes excerpted from speeches. Posted anonymously, the texts become relatively open signs, applicable to several situations. Holzer insists that the reader consider the texts and slogans with which we are inundated.
Hermann Nitsch is an Austrian artist known for his visceral performance art practice, often based on the ritualistic practice of sacrifice. Nitsch’s outrageous works are referred to as Orgien Mysterien Theater and involve blood, animal entrails, and nudity. “I want my work to stir up the audience, the participants of my performances. I want to arouse them by the means of sensual intensity and to bring them an understanding of their existence,” the artist has said. Born on August 29, 1936 in Vienna, Austria the artist originally conceived of his aktionen, or action performances after having experienced World War II as child. Interested in the intensity of his memories, he has sought religious themes and customs to convey his emotions since the 1950s. He is a member of the Vienna Actionists, along with Günter Brus, Otto Muehl, and Rudolf Schwarzkogler, each artist practices a form of confrontational art. The group’s work has influenced an international assortment of artists, including Alan Kaprow, Carolee Schneemann, Nam June Paik, and Charlotte Morman. In 2007, Nitsch opened the Hermann Nitsch Museum in Mistelbach, Austria. He currently lives and works in Vienna, Austria. The artist’s works are included in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Essl Collection of Contemporary Art in Austria, among others.
Avery started experimenting with large-scale canvases in 1957. The increase in scale gave his simplified color masses overwhelming impact. This development, apparent in Black Sea, marked a new flowering in his artistic oeuvre.
Black Sea, a depiction of an ebbing wave at the Provincetown beach, represents one of Avery’s most abstract paintings. Over the years he had painted numerous scenes, many containing figures, of New England beaches; however, in the late 1950s, as seen in Black Sea, he began to reduce detail and emphasize formal aspects of his works. Through this process of simplification, elements became ambiguous, appearing on the one hand non-objective and on the other starkly representational. Black Sea lacks descriptive detail as Avery reduced the composition to three color areas corresponding to ocean, surf and sand. Extending past an expanse of golden sand, a ripple of surf leads the eye to a wedge of black, suggesting the boundless sea beyond. The bold contrast of the black wave with the huge expanse of flesh-colored sand creates one of Avery's most striking and monumental paintings.
An iconic image of surf, masterfully achieved, Black Sea captivated Duncan Phillips, who purchased it from the 1965 Avery retrospective organized by the Museum of Modern Art that was also presented at The Phillips Collection.
The Tomb of the Diver is an archaeological monument, built in about 470 BC and found by the Italian archaeologist Mario Napoli on 3 June 1968 during his excavation of a small necropolis about 1.5 km south of the Greek city of Paestum in Magna Graecia, in what is now southern Italy. The tomb is now displayed in the museum at Paestum.
It is a grave made of five local limestone slabs forming the four lateral walls and the roof, the floor being excavated in the natural rock ground. The five slabs, accurately bonded with plaster, formed a chamber sized — roughly – 215 × 100 × 80 cm (7.1 × 3.3 × 2.6 ft). All five slabs forming the monument were painted on the interior sides using a true fresco technique. The paintings on the four walls depict a symposium scene, while the cover slab shows the famous scene that gives the tomb its name: a young man diving into a curling and waving stream of water. Two masters have been distinguished, the south wall being by a less impressive artist than the others.