This selection of Malevich’s works on paper spans the whole of his career. It can be seen as a condensed retrospective in its own right, recapitulating his development from early figuration to abstraction to architecture, and back to figuration again. Many of the pieces are very small, as paper in Russia was expensive at this time, and had to be used sparingly.
Malevich utilised drawing as a tool for thinking, and these works include many sketches for his paintings. Some drawings explore the relationship between image and language, such as the 1915 work in which the word ‘Derevnya’, or ‘Village’ is framed as if it were a picture. There is also a series of anti-German propaganda postcards made in 1914, with texts by the futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, their cartoon-like style rooted in the lubok popular print.
Nikolai Khardzhiev (1903 – 1996) and George Costakis (1913 – 1990) both began to collect Russian avant-garde art at a time when abstract artwas banned in the Soviet Union. Khardzhiev was initially a historian of Russian futurist poetry, but soon broadened his interests to encompass the visual arts. Costakis, who was born in Moscow to Greek parents, discovered hundreds of artworks that were hidden away, sometimes rescuing them from being used as building materials. Both men went to considerable lengths to preserve these astonishing works, many of which might have been otherwise lost or destroyed. This exhibition originates in a collaboration between the Costakis Collection in Thessaloniki, and the Khardzhiev Collection and the Stedelijk Museum, both in Amsterdam, including important loans from public and private collections in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and the USA.