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This video is brilliant. Klein establishes himself as a premiere performance artist/painter in this cleverly staged demonstration of using nude women as blue paint brushes. My new idol!

An icon avant garde artist who worked almost exclusively in blue.  Klein created his own world with passion and uncompromising vision. The effect is soul-engaging pulling you into a world you had no idea existed until he opened the door and let you in.

Yves Klein (French pronunciation: 28 April 1928 – 6 June 1962) was a French artist considered an important figure in post-war European art. He is the leading member of the French artistic movement of Nouveau réalisme founded in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany. Klein was a pioneer in the development of Performance art, and is seen as an inspiration to and as a forerunner of Minimal art, as well as Pop art.

Klein was born in Nice, in the Alpes-Maritimes department of France. His parents, Fred Klein and Marie Raymond, were both painters. His father painted in a loose Post-impressionist style, while his mother was a leading figure in Art informel, and held regular soirées with other leading practitioners of this Parisian abstract movement.

From 1942 to 1946, Yves Klein studied at the École Nationale de la Marine Marchande and the École Nationale des Langues Orientales and began practicing judo. At this time, he became friends with Arman Fernandez and Claude Pascal and started to paint. At the age of nineteen, Klein and his friends lay on a beach in the south of France, and divided the world between themselves; Arman chose the earth, Claude, words, while Yves chose the ethereal space surrounding the planet, which he then proceeded to sign:

With this famous symbolic gesture of signing the sky, Klein had foreseen, as in a reverie, the thrust of his art from that time onwards—a quest to reach the far side of the infinite.

Between 1947 and 1948, Klein conceived his Monotone Symphony (1949, formally The Monotone-Silence Symphony) that consisted of a single 20-minute sustained chord followed by a 20-minute silence – a precedent to both La Monte Young‘s drone musicand John Cage’s 4′33″. During the years 1948 to 1952, he traveled to Italy, Great Britain, Spain, and Japan. In Japan, at the early age of 25, he became a master at judo receiving the rank of yodan (4th dan/degree black-belt) from the Kodokan, which at that time was a remarkable achievement for a westerner. He also stayed in Japan in 1953. Klein later wrote a book on Judo called Les fondements du judo. In 1954, Klein settled permanently in Paris and began in earnest to establish himself in the art world.

Although Klein had painted monochromes as early as 1949, and held the first private exhibition of this work in 1950, his first public showing was the publication of the Artist’s book Yves: Peintures in November 1954. Parodying a traditional catalogue, the book featured a series of intense monochromes linked to various cities he had lived in during the previous years. Yves: Peintures anticipated his first two shows of oil paintings, at the Club des Solitaires, Paris, October 1955 and Yves: Proposition monochromes at Gallery Colette Allendy, February 1956. Public responses to these shows, which displayed orange, yellow, red, pink and blue monochromes, deeply disappointed Klein, as people went from painting to painting, linking them together as a sort of mosaic.

From the reactions of the audience, [Klein] realized that…viewers thought his various, uniformly colored canvases amounted to a new kind of bright, abstract interior decoration. Shocked at this misunderstanding, Klein knew a further and decisive step in the direction of monochrome art would have to be taken…From that time onwards he would concentrate on one single, primary color alone: blue.

The next exhibition, ‘Proposte Monochrome, Epoca Blu’ (Proposition Monochrome; Blue Epoch) at the Gallery Apollinaire, Milan, (January 1957), featured 11 identical blue canvases, using ultramarine pigment suspended in a synthetic resin ‘Rhodopas’. Discovered with the help of Edouard Adam, a Parisian paint dealer, the optical effect retained the brilliance of the pigment which, when suspended in linseed oil, tended to become dull. Klein later patented this recipe to maintain the “authenticity of the pure idea.” This colour, reminiscent of the lapis lazuli used to paint the Madonna’s robes in medieval paintings, was to become famous as ‘International Klein Blue‘ (IKB). The paintings were attached to poles placed 20 cm away from the walls to increase their spatial ambiguities.

The show was a critical and commercial success, traveling to Paris, Düsseldorf and London. The Parisian exhibition, at the Iris Clert Gallery in May 1957, became a seminal happening. To mark the opening, 1001 blue balloons were released and blue postcards were sent out using IKB stamps that Klein had bribed the postal service to accept as legitimate. Concurrently, an exhibition of tubs of blue pigment and fire paintings was held at Gallery Collette Allendy.

Klein is also well known for a photomontageSaut dans le vide (Leap into the Void), originally published in the artist’s book Dimanche, which apparently shows him jumping off a wall, arms outstretched, towards the pavement. Klein used the photograph as evidence of his ability to undertake unaided lunar travel. In fact, “Saut dans le vide”, published as part of a broadside on the part of Klein (the “artist of space”) denouncing NASA’s own lunar expeditions as hubris and folly, was a photomontage in which the large tarpaulin Klein leaped onto was removed from the final image.

The critic Pierre Restany, whom he had met during his first public exhibition at the Club Solitaire, founded the Nouveau Réalisme group in Klein’s apartment on 27 October 1960. Founding members were Arman, Francois Dufrêne, Raymond Hains, Yves Klein, Martial Raysse, Daniel SpoerriJean Tinguely, and Jacques Villeglé, with Niki de Saint PhalleChristo and Gérard Deschamps joining later. Normally seen as a French version of Pop Art, the aim of the group was stated as ‘New Realism=New Perceptual Approaches To The Real’.

A large retrospective was held at Krefeld, Germany, January 1961, followed by an unsuccessful opening at Leo Castelli’s Gallery, New York, in which Klein failed to sell a single painting. He stayed with Rotraut Uecker at the Chelsea Hotel for the duration of the exhibition; and, while there, he wrote the “Chelsea Hotel Manifesto”, a defence against the ‘mutual incomprehension’ provoked by the exhibition. He moved on to exhibit at the Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, and traveled extensively in the Western U.S., visiting Death Valley in the Mojave Desert. On 21 January 1962, in an elaborate ceremony in which Klein dressed as a Knight of the Order of St Sebastian, he married Rotraut Uecker, sister of German artist Günther Uecker, at Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs, Paris. His last works included painting geophysical reliefs of France and casting his friends’ torsos, painting them blue, and attaching them to gold-leafed supports.

He suffered a heart attack while watching the film Mondo Cane (in which he is featured) at the Cannes Film Festival on 11 May 1962. Two more heart attacks followed, the second of which killed him on 6 June 1962.

Source: Wikipedia