My approach to abstract painting changed forever fifteen years ago during a conversation with an artist friend in front of Kasimir Malevich’s White on White (1918) at the Museum of Modern Art.
As I was telling my friend about Malevich’s theories of abstraction and his utopian belief that paintings of squares and rectangles could transform society, my friend interrupted me and, with his nose about as close as one could get to a painting, whispered, “Look at this surface! How did he do it?”
As I looked at that meticulously worked-over canvas, White on White became something other than an idea or a theory.
It became a painting—a vulnerable, futile, and weak object, lovingly and painstakingly made by a human being in the midst of a world turned upside down by World War I and the Russian Revolution.