Reflection on "aura" Malevich ptg (mo' on pomo)

Janette Wilson (G1824303@NMSUVM1.BITNET)
Mon, 11 Apr 1994 14:18:59 MDT

Years ago I saw an exhibition in California on Suprematist Art. Not having
been to many art shows and not having read much on art, I was affronted by
the title. I went into the exhibition with a chip on my shoulders, since I
thought I was going to see some racist crap. You can imagine my surprise, not
to mention, bewilderment. Very slowly, I started to "get into" the paintings,
though they really didn't do much for me. Then I saw a painting by Malevich,
called White on White. I stood there mesmerized! The painting took me on
an inner, spiritual journey.

Only a few short years ago, I started taking art history classes. In a text,
I saw a black and white reproduction of that work. How can I tell you how I
felt? It was like the painting was raped. If I had not seen the original,
I doubt I'd have had much regard for the work. (which makes me wonder about
artists who regard highly predecessors whose work the former have only seen
in reproduction -- and yet that is how many of us are familiar with 'famous'
artworks) It wasn't just that the smaller square was immediately visible in
the black and white copy -- the experience was not about being surprised. It
was the journey that those warm and cool whites reverberating through me took
me on that was so meaningful. The b & w repro just didn't cut it.

Artists in the 1970s and especially in the 1980s and 1990s began dealing with
fact that many of us are familiar with artwork by proxy. Repros. Some made
explicit copies of the copies of artworks, making the point that what we know
is through the copy. From there, people have dealt with what is termed the
loss of the "aura," that is, the loss of that charged connection to the

To get back to the Malevich painting. What if I had not seen it when I did?
What if I had seen it after I had seen the black and white reproduction?
Would my response have been the same? I don't know. But I'm glad I saw it
when I did, for the experience is one I'll always treasure.