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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Malevich’s "Black Square" and Its Precursors

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Malevich’s "Black Square" and Its Precursors

An exploration of Kasimir Malevich’s radical 1915 artwork, its predecessors, and its continuing relevance.
When Kasimir’s Malevich’s Black Square was produced in 1915, no one had ever seen anything like it before. And yet it does have precedents. In fact, over the previous five hundred years, several painters, writers, philosophers, scientists, and censors—each working independently towards an absolute statement of their own—alighted on the form of the black square or rectangle, as if for the first time.
This book explores the resonances between Malevich’s Black Square and its precursors, showing how a so-called genealogical thread binds them together into an intriguing, and sometimes quirky, sequence of modulations. Andrew Spira’s book explores how each predecessor both foreshadows Malevich’s work and, paradoxically, throws light on it, revealing layers of meaning that are often overlooked but which are as relevant today as ever.

144 pages | 70 color plates, 7 halftones | 6 1/4 x 8 1/4

Art: Art Criticism, British Art

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"Spira’s Foreshadowed sets out to trace the various dark paths, cultural, philosophical and iconographic, that led to Malevich’s square. Some of these seem far-fetched, but turn out not to be."

Times Literary Supplement

"Spira has written an extraordinary and fascinating book about one of the simplest paintings ever made. Brilliant, witty, personal, and inspired, it is full of surprises."

John Milner, author of "Kazimir Malevich and the Art of Geometry"

"This is a thought-provoking book that provides the philosophical background to the emergence of the most mysterious painting of the twentieth century—Black Square by Kazimir Malevich—and enhances our understanding of it by making some completely new observations. Placing Malevich’s Black Square in the most interesting and intriguing context, Spira develops a fascinating narrative that explores the possible precursors, origins, context, and meaning of this iconic painting."

Natalia Murray, associate lecturer and senior curator, Courtauld Institute of Art

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