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I am looking for a word that describes something whose meaning is instantly recognizable, that is so simple as to be offensively lazy, and yet completely apropos.

Such a word might describe Kazimir Malevich's painting Black Square:

enter image description here

Chef's kiss conveys artfulness and minimalism, but not to the point of laziness or offense.

I like sophomoric for its literal translation "wise fool", but the word is not used to suggest brilliance.

Cunning has the right connotation of artfulness, but its connotations of subtlety, and further, deception, make it inappropriate.

Stupidly/offensively obvious almost works, but is boring. Unsubtle is ok; blunt better. Both don't convey the artfulness that I'm looking for. I love the divine feel of manifest; I'm wondering if this is the best I can do. I'm tempted to coin kazimirean, but of course that's too indulgent.

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  • The very slight skew of the black square only makes it more kazimirean. Oct 27, 2023 at 20:54
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    But not even the lion's share of Malevich's work has this quality (in an evident way, at least :). Isn't the concept regularly (but probably also boringly) described as "brilliantly simple"?
    – Joachim
    Oct 27, 2023 at 21:53
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    Why is a painting "stupid"? Who says that the artist was being either cunning or lazy when it was painted? Is that painting really simple? Why is that black square brilliant? Summing up a concept, an idea, a work of art into one word is meaningless without explaining why.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2023 at 8:36
  • In its day it was probably ridiculed, misunderstood, derided, or held up as being revolutionary and "brave". It divided public opinion in the past and continues to do so today. So call it divisive, iconic, revolutionary. deceptive or underestimated.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2023 at 8:45
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    @Mari-LouA, iconic conveys the right sense of perfect minimalism. Furthermore, when Malevich exhibited Black Square, he hung it in the top corner of the room, which is the traditional place for a religious icon in a Russian home. Oct 28, 2023 at 16:10

3 Answers 3

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Genius can be used in this sense, for something stupidly simple but brilliant. It can also be used to define an artwork that appears to be too simple or lazily done, but is brilliantly creative.

You won't find a dictionary entry of this sense but you can often see it used as "This is genius!", especially in social media.

Here is a relevant example I've found in the wild:

This simple but brilliant piece of rare, surrealist art finally confirmed my unique ability to recognise artistic genius.

weeklytimesnow.com.au

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“Brilliant simplicity “

I think it’s the simplicity that makes you think it’s “stupid”. It actually takes a lot of intelligence to make something simple because the creator has to give huge thought to working out exactly what’s unnecessary and how much they can cut out while maintaining the essential point they want to make. Edward de Bono has a book on this “Simplicity“.

There’s also something very “eloquent” about a painting that is so “pure”.

It reminds me of the famous quote: “If I’d had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It takes a lot of effort to be concise. (This long-winded explanation was composed in a hurry).

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On the nose seems to work. It means precise, as in minimal and complete, and also unsubtle, with the image of bonking one on the nose conveying the sense of rudeness I'm looking for. See also comparisons to "too on the nose."

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  • “I am looking for a word”…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Oct 28, 2023 at 16:15

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