A History Of Abstract Art In Adventures Of The Black Square

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 42 months ago
A History Of Abstract Art In Adventures Of The Black Square ★★★☆☆ 3
Purchased 1971  © ARS, NY and DACS, London 2014
The blinding light art of Dan Flavin is a favourite of ours. Copyright Stephen Flavin.
Purchased 1964  © 2007 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International, USA
A colour composition by one of the best known abstract artists, Piet Mondrian. Copyright DACS.
Alexsandr Rodchenko's images are part of the strong photography selection in this exhibition. Copyright Rodchenko & Stepanova archive.
Alexsandr Rodchenko's images are part of the strong photography selection in this exhibition. Copyright Rodchenko & Stepanova archive.
The trippy Seven Rotations by Dóra Maurer. Copyright Dóra Maurer
The trippy Seven Rotations by Dóra Maurer. Copyright Dóra Maurer
Inventarienr: MOM/2004/97 Konstnärens namn: Kazimir Malevitj Titel: Black and White. Suprematist Composition Datum: 1915
Malevich's simple blocks of colour are the starting point for this exhibition. Copyright Moderna Museet, Stockholm

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

Abstract art is a genre that can often be difficult to get to grips with, but the Whitechapel gallery has made a brave move dedicating a major exhibition to the history of abstract art over the last 100 years. As the name suggests, it kicks off with the famous black square and the art movement Kazimir Malevich named suprematism, running right through to today's art.

There is a lot of historical weight to this  exhibition but these works do suffer due to timing: in the last year we've enjoyed an excellent Malevich exhibition and South American modernism was explored by the Royal Academy, so there's an element of retreading ground that has been covered recently.

But this show has more artists to offer and is a who's who of abstract art, including Carl Andre's floor tiles that can be walked over, the blinding light art of Dan Flavin and a colour composition by Piet Mondrian — an accompanying film of Mondrian's colourful studio made us wish we worked there.

The photography in this exhibition is very strong, especially the vertiginous additions of Aleksandr Rodchenko as he photographs towers from the bottom looking up. Our favourite work is by Andrea Fraser: a video that mocks abstract art as a gallery salesperson tries to convince us to see a range of emotions within a painting of a black square.

This is a heavyweight exhibition and for those who've never really got into abstract art, this won't convert you. But for fans of the genre, the history and diversity of the show make it a must visit.

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915-2015 is on at Whitechapel Gallery, 77-82 Whitechapel High St, E1 7QX until 6 April. Tickets are £11.95 for adults, concessions available.

Last Updated 16 January 2015