Kazimir Malevich died in Leningrad on May 15th, 1935. His body lay in mourning for a few days in the House of the Artists Union before his ashes were buried under a tree in Nemchinovka, near Moscow. Nikolai Suetin, another Suprematist artist, organized Malevich's funeral and designed his coffin – a right-angled, black and white box decorated only with a black square and a black circle. The corpse of the artist was surrounded by a selection of his paintings and a bunch of white lilies. Family and friends came to pay their last respects, not only to the person but to his art. The funeral became an exhibition in its own right, albeit a particularly uncanny one.
Since its foundation in 1983, the Slovenian collective IRWIN has been investigating the esthetic, political and historical influence of the early artistic avant-garde. References to Malevich and his use of simple geometrical forms, such as the Black Square, are found in many of their works. In 1992, for instance, they spread out a square (22 x 22 meter) piece of black cloth on Moscow's Red Square (Black Square on Red Square), and in 2003/4 they built a perfect copy of the coffin Suetin had designed for Malevich and exhibited it with a waxwork body as the Corpse of Art. This was an artwork about art history, but also about the absurdity and the cruelty of exhibitions. A recreation of a famous exhibition, it was an "exhibition of an exhibition" that retained all the bizarre and eccentric qualities of the original.
In 1983 the artists Dušan Mandič, Miran Mohar, Andrej Savski, Roman Uranjek and Borut Vogelnik, who had met on Ljubljana's punk circuit, formed the artistic collective IRWIN. Drawing on images with strong political and artistic connotations, including Soviet, religious, fascist and Suprematist iconography, IRWIN’s art is complex and provocative. They have exhibited widely in Europe and the USA, including as part of Manifesta in Rotterdam (1993) and Ljubljana (2000) and at the Venice Biennale (2003).
Thibaut de Ruyter
Photos: Pierre-Etienne Morelle
Thanks to Galerija Gregor Podnar for its support