Perceptual Organisation Affects Perception and Appreciation of Abstract Art: A Case Study with Black Square and Red Square by Kazimir Malevich
Perceptual organisation is hypothesised as a key in the perception and appreciation of abstract art. Here, we investigated how relational and compositional features affected the perception and aesthetic appreciation of Black Square and Red Square by Kazimir Malevich (1915). We studied how (i) the presence and obliquity of the red square and (ii) the relative configuration of the black and red square affected the detectability of the obliquity of the black square in this artwork. Results showed that the simultaneous presence and obliquity of the red square masked the obliquity of the original black square. The likelihood of the black square being incorrectly perceived as an exact square was always maximum in the original configuration and even slight alterations in the original configuration of the work resulted in the obliquity of the black square to be noticed. The original artwork was more aesthetically preferred compared to its alternatives. We argue that the artist may have intentionally set the configuration to mask the obliquity of the black square and maximise the aesthetic preference.