April 11, 2014

Unknown at the level of conscious study

Well, after in the previous entry we saw Kasimir Malevich blast a future critical impassé regarding Jasper Johns's crosshatch paintings (which was really Morton Feldman's fault in the first place), here he is again, helping us read our favorite comics of 2013. (If you scroll down to the bottom here you can read that the image is from Malcy Duff's mini I Have Never Seen Anyone Hold Their Nose, which has a story written on the cover beginning: "We can see . . . A woman putting shards of glass all over the outside of her house." From there we thumb through eight pages of  loosely pasted pattern fragments until finally we arrive at just what the story promised we would see: the woman standing before a rectangle inscribed as a house with little jagged fragments that read "glass." So if that doesn't prove the story then I don't know what will.)

Then, in the mostly marvelous book (and it's easy to know where to skip the tedious parts) on the Black Square by Aleksandra Shatskikh, I found this image of a 1915 work by Malevich. She describes that the artist "placed a verbal object, the noun 'Village' pencilled in thick letters, on a piece of paper in a square exhibition frame, and under the 'picture' he provided a commentary: 'Instead of drawing the huts of nature's nooks, better to write Village and it will appear to each with finer details and the sweep of an entire village.'"

Now Shatskikh goes on to speak about how "by taking the figurative principle so important for traditional art outside the framework of plasticity, Malevich put a radical end to visual art and the object as such," and how "in his commentary, the intuivist-irrationalist showed himself to be an adherent of a philosophical tradition unknown to him at the level of conscious study: his 'village' was born in the speculative world of Platonic ideas, a noumenon capable of engendering a multiplicity of phenomena." This is all very well, but it also contradicts the "sweep of an entire village" that the painter himself postulates on the page below the image, where, as Shatskikh describes it, "the swallowed word endings and and the lines' sweeping haste tell us that the idea came over the author instantaneously and he set it down just as instantaneously." Again, a contradiction like this, blocking gut theory through the halting meta-thoughts of a later time, in which an artwork's achievement will be measured by how much historical sense it makes, might in the end provoke an interpretational impassé . . . but here Malcy Duff's panels return the favor by illustrating the painterly qualities of words in rectangles in almost didactical fashion:

PS: Just for the record, I have an email from Duff saying that indeed he has never seen anyone hold their nose. This might one day prove useful to know. The last two panels are from The Heroic Mosh Of Mary's Son from 2008, though.