“We can only perceive space when we break free from the earth, when the point of support disappears”
Malevich, 1928 manifesto, ‘The Non-Objective World’
Malevich and the artists of the Russian Avant-Garde movement re-invented space. Their explorations and experiments in the world of theatre helped them to develop and articulate their artistic visions and ideas.
The narrative space and extraordinary costumes created by Malevich for the 1913 opera production of Victory over the Sun, provide a backdrop that propels our understanding of the Avant-Garde and Suprematism. Through his experiments in theatre, we can see how Malevich’s idea for a victory over the natural energy of the sun began as a powerful set design – a diagonal line dividing a square into black and white, perhaps representing night and day. These designs preceded and inspired Malevich’s iconic Black Square painting which today is widely considered to be a groundbreaking, pivotal moment in the history of 20th century art. See the Black Square before the 26 October 2014 at the epic retrospective of Malevich’s work at Tate Modern.
Architect Zaha Hadid describes how Malevich influenced her career. Studying his work helped her discover and develop an architectural language and methodology, which enabled her road to abstraction.
Hadid “found the traditional system of architectural drawing to be limiting, […] studying Malevich allowed [her] to develop abstraction as an investigative principle.”
Zaha Hadid’s sculpture, Crest, currently arcs over the ellipse of the pond in the V&A garden. Pushing the boundaries of the material from which it is created, Hadid’s fluid and weightless sculpture changes our perception of this familiar space and reflects a multitude of images and textures. This elegant intervention created as part of the London Design Festival, is a reminder of the profound influence and legacy of the principles of the avant-garde movement on contemporary practice.
The V&A’s forthcoming exhibition, Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War, Revolution and Design will include over 150 works from the A.A Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum and the St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music. The display will reveal 20 years of radical and revolutionary designs for performance produced between 1913 and 1933 against the backdrop of the First World War and Russian revolutions.
The exhibition will include works by the highly creative, experimental and visionary performance designs of familiar artists like Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Vladimir Tatlin, El Lissitsky, Alexandra Exter, Liubov Popova and Varvara Stepanova as well as lesser known artists, Leonid Chupiatov and Iraklii Gamrekeli Boris Ferdinandov and Konstantin Vialov.
Russian Avant-Garde Theatre: War, Revolution and Design is organized in collaboration with the A.A Bakhrushin State Central Theatre Museum.