artist / participant
The Centre Pompidou/ Musée National d'Art Moderne is to devote a major exhibition to the work of Yves Klein, one of the most important artists of the second half of the twentieth century.
Klein died in 1962, at the age of 34, after a brief but exhilarating seven-year career. His international fame has, however, too narrowly identified him with his monochrome paintings and his IKB blue, and he was indeed but poorly understood during his own lifetime. His work in fact went far beyond painting : as he himself insisted, " My canvasses are no more than the ashes of my art. "*
Despite numerous retrospectives, among them the exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in 1983, much of Klein's work remains unknown, as has been revealed by the recent publication of the his writings.
The exhibition "Yves Klein. Corps, couleur, immatériel " is supported by LVMH / Moët Hennessy . Louis Vuitton.
In bringing together 120 paintings and sculptures, some 40 drawings and manuscripts and a great number of contemporary films and photographs, this exhibition offers a new reading of Yves Klein's work. Adhering as faithfully as possible to the artist's own intentions as revealed in his recently published writings, the design of the exhibition brings out the importance that Klein accorded to the diverse aspects of his artistic practice: not only painting and sculpture, but also performances, sound works, interventions in public spaces, architectural projects and more.
In reconstituting such works as the Sculpture aérostatique of 1957 (the release of 1001 balloons), or the Illumination de l'Obélisque of 1958, in the Place de la Concorde, the exhibition reinstates Klein's ephemeral actions as the equals of his monochrome paintings. Klein's work in fact depends on a dynamic equilibrium between two poles : the visible and the invisible, matter and void, the body and the immaterial. This tension is at the heart of the work: even as he explored the void in Le Vide (Galerie Iris Clert, Paris 1958), Klein would continue to create visible artworks.
The exhibition is organised around Klein's three emblematic colours : blue, gold and pink, marshalled in this order in his writing and in the few rare triptychs. From 1959 onward, his work would be based upon this triad. The Ex-voto dédié à Sainte-Rita, 1961, deposited by the artist at the Convent of Santa Rita in Cascia, Italy, and presented for the first time at this exhibition, is valuable evidence of the importance of pink and gold alongside blue in Klein's imaginative universe.
The subtitle of the exhibition, CORPS, COULEUR, IMMATÉRIEL (Body, Colour, Immaterial), brings out the very contemporary aspects of Klein's art, close to the concerns of today's practitioners : the artist's physical, everyday involvement with his work ; his desire to expand the artist's role, through the use of colour, to bring about a (technical, urbanistic and philosophical) transformation of the world ; his use of natural or ephemeral materials ; and his exploration of the immaterial.
The exhibition will also be presented at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Wien (Vienna, Austria) from 9 March to 3 June 2007.
* Yves Klein, Le dépassement de la problématique de l'art et autres écrits, École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts
BODY The body – the flesh of the model, but also the athletic body of the artist himself, who held a blackbelt in judo – early proved itself necessary as a counterpoint, a balancing factor in the face of the vertigo of the immaterial. Used first to " stabilise the pictorial material " in the monochromes, the model soon acquired a certain autonomy, " flinging itself into the colour ", as in the Anthropometries, paintings derived from the imprint of the paint-covered body (be it male or female) on the canvas, a body always under the direction of the artist, whether still or in movement. An essential chapter in the history of performance art, this series of works is also a profoundly important event in the history of painting, the composition of the painting being delegated to chance and to the body of another.
COLOUR The link between the body and the immaterial is colour, but colour in the expanded sense given it by Klein : far from being reduced to pigment and binder, for him it is a spiritual, cosmic force that charges the whole atmosphere, transforms life itself into a work of art through the mere presence of the artist. Colour was very soon restricted, in 1959, to three tones, each of which evokes one of these crucial aspects or themes of his work : blue, gold, and pink.
IMMATERIAL In 1957, not long after the appearance of the first monochromes in 1955, Klein turned to the exploration of the "immaterial aspect " of art : his exhibitions of " the Void ", evanescent performance works, ephemeral sculptures in fire or water, sound works, " air architectures " and artistic appropriation of the entirety of space (extending to the whole cosmos) were all manifestations of the " invisible" that for him were the essential experience of art. These vertiginous experiences have to a considerable extent escaped the attention of critics and public : it is time to rediscover their full implications and the importance they have both to the conceptual art they prefigure and to the performance art whose essential concerns they illuminate. It is difficult to show the invisible; very aware of this problem, Klein dealt with it in advance by issuing a multiplicity of statements and organising photographs and films of his most ephemeral works. So it is that it is possible today, by assembling and juxtaposing such documentation, not only to recall these moments but to treat them as the artworks that Klein intended.
ORGANISATION OF THE EXHIBITION
Introduction : BODY, COLOUR, IMMATERIAL
Part 1: IMPREGNATION " I foresee today that in future the real way to visit space, a space more distant, infinitely more distant, than our solar universe or any other, will not be by missile or rocket or sputnik, but by impregnation. "* The blue monochrome is no more than an introduction to the " blue revolution " – the diffusion of the pictorial sensibility throughout the whole universe, both visible and invisible. A room of IKB thus leads on to planetary reliefs and then to a "theatre of the immaterial" in which are assembled Klein's invisible, conceptual, musical and sound projects. Finally, sponge reliefs on the theme of music demonstrate the process of impregnation, a process that acts on both world and viewer, as is witnessed by the " readers ", anthropomorphic sponges and portraits of a viewer "impregnated" with blue.
Part 2 : THE ILLUMINATION OF MATTER " To tell the truth, what I am trying to achieve – my future development, my solution, the way out of my problem – is to no longer do anything at all, as quickly as possible, but consciously, with care and caution. I want to be, " full stop ". I will be a " painter ". People will say of me: that's the painter. And I will feel myself to be a " painter ", a real one, precisely, because I won't paint, or at least not in appearance. The fact of my existence as a painter will be the most " wonderful " pictorial work of the present age. "* A room of Monogolds, among them a number of gold " anthropometries ", introduces the notion of the transmutation of matter : the artist uses and transforms raw materials, domesticates natural forces and transforms everything into art by his mere presence. The Cosmogonies capture the imprint of wind, of rain. Fire and air, two invisible fluids that Klein officially claimed as his own, give rise to works both real (fire paintings) and utopian (air architecture, schemes of planetary air-conditioning).
Part 3 : EMBODIMENT " I used nude models so as not, by secluding myself in the overly spiritual sphere of artistic creation, to lose touch with the crude common sense that is necessary to our embodied condition and which in the atmosphere of the studio is concentrated in the presence of the flesh. "* The Monopinks, with the Suaires (Shrouds), intimate impressions of the female body, show how in Klein's work colour connects the body to the world. Pink evokes the skin of the model that Klein would never abandon, present first as the " stabiliser " of the monochromes and then as the " living paintbrush " of the Anthropometries. These last will be displayed in all their ambition and formal diversity, in the form of three big Batailles (Battles – moving bodies) and the biggest of the Frises (Friezes – static bodies).
Conclusion : TRIPTYCHS IN BLUE, GOLD AND PINK "The blood of sensibility is blue ", says Shelley, and that is precisely what I think. The price of blue blood can never be silver. It must be gold. And then, as we shall see later in Dr Robert Desoille's analysis of waking dream, blue, gold and pink are of the same nature. Between these states there can be fair exchange. "*
PUBLICATIONS ÉDITIONS DU CENTRE POMPIDOU CATALOGUE YVES KLEIN Editor: Camille Morineau Format 23.5 x 28 cms 304 pp. 250 ill. in colour, 100 b. & w.