Today, because of our familiarity with geometric abstraction in art, we kind of expect a painting titled “Black Square” to be square. So why is Malevich’s “Black Square” not a measured and ruled black square, but instead is oddly a little out of shape and probably should be called a “Black Quadrangle”?
We are now talking about a painting done 100 years ago and still challenging our notions of what we expect from art. Malevich had been thinking about abstraction (or non-objectivity) for a while prior to this, but in 1915 he started to produce his “suprematist” paintings in quantity. Malevich always referred to “Black Square” as a new beginning for painting. For Malevich, it was not an empty painting but an emotional icon.
Malevich either didn’t care the painting wasn’t square or it was intentionally not square. I believe it was intentionally not square as he wanted the shape to look like an entity in itself and not just blackness framed. We can see this intention more obviously in his painting “Red Square”.
The painting at the top is actually a second version painted in 1923 for an exhibition to promote his ideas and he was doing little or no new painting at the time. The first version from 1915 shows some aging problems and looks like it was painted quickly over another painting that hadn’t fully dried. Malevich always seems more interested in the ideas than in the actual quality of execution.