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Preview: Adventures of the Black Square – Abstract Art & Society 1915-2015

Thursday 18 September 2014
Words Alice Bell

A major new exhibition tracing a century of Abstract art from 1915 to today will open at the Whitechapel Gallery in January.

It brings together over 100 works by 80 modern masters and contemporary artists including Carl Andre, David Batchelor, Keith Coventry, Dan Flavin, Andrea Fraser,  Piet Mondrian, Gabriel Orozco, Hélio Oiticica, Aleksander Rodchenko, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Rosemarie Trockel, Theo Van Doesberg and Andrea Zittel, taking over six exhibition spaces across the gallery.

The exhibition takes a fresh look at this new art for a modern age, and asks how art relates to society and politics. As well as following the rise of Constructivist art from its revolutionary beginnings amongst the avant-garde in Russia and Europe, the exhibition sheds new light on the evolution of geometric abstraction from continents across the globe including Asia, the US and Latin America.

The exhibition begins with Kazimir Malevich’s Black and WhiteSuprematist Composition (1915), one of a series of paintings included in the famous exhibition The Last Futurist Exhibition of Paintings: 0.10 in Petrograd, now St Petersburg, in the same year, prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917.  This is the starting point for telling the story of Abstract art and its political potential over the next century.

The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, film and photographs spanning the century from 1915 to the present, brought together from major international collections including Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museum of Contemporary Art, Barcelona; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago; The Costakis Collection, Thessaloniki; National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh; Tate, London; and Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven.

Further exhibition highlights include an entire wall filled with photographs documenting the radio towers of Moscow and Berlin by Aleksandr Rodchenko and László Moholy-Nagy amongst others, blow-up archive photographs of iconic exhibitions running through the history of abstraction and a selection of magazines which convey revolutionary ideas in art and society through typography and graphic design.

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915 – 2015, opens 15 January – 6 April 2015 at the Whitechapel Gallery.