The Invention of Zero (after Malevich), 1991 consists of three large-scale wax-on-wood reliefs of shapes that appear in Malevich’s paintings: a square, a circle, and a cross. They are painted entirely black with textured, almost burnt-looking surfaces. Hung side-by-side to form a triptych, the panels are each “framed” by bright light cast on the wall in the shape of a square, recalling the white canvases upon which Malevich painted his geometric shapes. The lighting effects give the triptych a paradoxical sense of both immateriality and depth.
But if Malevich was working to separate art from life, Longo was responding, albeit obliquely, to major political and social events. Finding words and images too limiting for his purpose, he turned to abstraction to express what was otherwise too huge and complex for representation to contain.