During his short artistic career, started in the main in 1955, Yves Klein (Nice, France 1928 - Paris, 1962) fully gives himself over to markedly experimental practices replete with the poetry of the void and a clear undercurrent of spirituality. His work perpetually challenges notions of the value of art and radically reconsiders the role of the artist and viewer. For the exhibition's curator, Sidra Stisch, Klein's work, “not only submits a dialogue of art by developing innovative alternatives, it also highlights the ties to philosophical debates, technological advances and the cultural and socio-economic climate in the post-war period in the middle of the Fifties.”
In 1956 Klein adopts the motto: “For colour! Against the line and the drawing!”, and bases his artistic theory around two main principles: absolute colour, particularly uniform ultramarine blue, which he patents in May of 1960 under the name International Klein Blue (IKB), and secondly the void, restricted to creating what he calls “Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility”. Furthermore, manifest in Klein's artistic output is his facet as an expert judoist in the Kodokan method, his knowledge and practice of the Rosicrucian Doctrine and his rejection of academic and contemporary conventions (from Abstract Expressionism to certain attitudes of Realités Nouvelles artists who believed in occasionalism).
This anthological exhibition sets out on a journey through Klein's artistic biography - the work, actions and projects that form the backbone of his oeuvre (the monochromes and sponges, the silence of a single note entitled Monotone-Silence Symphony, the fire paintings, the void in relation to space, the anthropometries and cosmogonies), and outlines his strong desire to explore creative concepts from different approaches without being confined to the field of painting. The work displayed in the exhibition also demonstrates how his poetic expression (the constant appeal to sensibility) shifts towards a kind of cosmological conception as, moreover, the artist himself becomes a master of ceremonies (Anthropometries). For these pieces his monochromes are created with a brush roller to smooth out traces of brush strokes and his own prints. Another outcome is the disappearance of the object in the perceptions of his work; for instance, in the Specialisation of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilized Pictorial Sensibility. The Void (1958), in which, strictly speaking, there is no composition, just an exploration of its absence; swapping the visible with the invisible because, as the art critic, Javier Arnaldo, explains, “it is the absolute experience of perception that opens this life of sensibility above all dimensions.” Thus Klein demonstrates how the aim of both monochrome painting and the void is the identification of the sensibility of the cosmos, adding the assumption that sensibility is the raw material of painting.
Museum Ludwig, Cologne and Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düssedorf (November 8, 1994 - January 8, 1995); Hayward Gallery, London (February 9 - April 23, 1995)