In 1928, one of the most radical and revolutionist artists of the Post-War period was born on this day in Nice, France. Yves Klein, mostly known for his patented International Klein Blue (IKB) and his monochrome paintings, achieved in eight years of practice more than one could envision–from paintings, photography, music, performances, theater to theoretical writings. The diversity of his practice, often motivated by the depths of his philosophical inquiries, namely the endless void, and his rejection for art’s representational reading, makes his artistic path unprecedented.
In the summer of 1947 sitting on a beach in Nice with Arman and Claude Pascal, Yves Klein pictured himself levitating to space and signing his first painting: the azure hazy blue sky. From then on, he decided to embark on his relentless and passionate journey, that he fearlessly named, the Blue Revolution.
As a conqueror of the sky, Klein considered the blue color as the purest color in the world with an ability to transcend its own physical materiality, disperse through space and allow for the audience to overcome their psychological boundaries through the experience of spiritual immateriality. Yet, his aspiration to distance himself from his own paintings led him to discover new processes to art-making throughout his career. For his famous Anthropometries, Klein instructed nude female bodies covered in blue paint to act like “living brushes” as a way to crystallize the vital, ephemeral and invisible energies of the body. Although Klein was a self-declared “painter of space,” art was not merely just about paintings. For his groundbreaking exhibition The Void in 1958, the artist emptied Iris Clert Gallery and impregnated the gallery’s atmosphere with a pictorial sensibility in order for the audience to experience the full powers of the void, as Albert Camus commented on the exhibition. In 1960, Yves Klein immersed himself too into the metaphysical realm with his work Leap into the Void, asserting space again as the ultimate medium.
Yves Klein’s persona both scandalized and rejuvenated the art world. His eagerness to leap over the ashes of the war and to revive a sense of boundless possibilities in the minds of people added social and political underpinnings to his works, crucial to that post-war period. As a shaman, a magician, a philosopher and a showman, Yves Klein was not only precursor to Conceptual art, Performance Art, Installation art and Institutional Critique, but his belief in the capacity of art to alter the status quo remains timeless aspirations for our current contemporary society.
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