It’s day 54 and I spent the first night in my new home…I actually own a home! Unpacking and organizing the kitchen and other things occupied most of my day, but I still had time to paint my boob blue in honor of Yves Klein!
Yves Klein (French: [iv klɛ̃]; 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 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 music and 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.
Monochrome works: The Blue Epoch
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,’ described by Klein as “The Medium.” 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 deposited a Soleau envelope for 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.
Despite the IKB paintings being uniformly coloured, Klein experimented with various methods of applying the paint; firstly different rollers and then later sponges, created a series of varied surfaces. This experimentalism would lead to a number of works Klein made using naked female models covered in blue paint and dragged across or laid upon canvases to make the image, using the models as “living brushes”. This type of work he called Anthropometry. Other paintings in this method of production include “recordings” of rain that Klein made by driving around in the rain at 70 miles per hour with a canvas tied to the roof of his car, and canvases with patterns of soot created by scorching the canvas with gas burners.
Klein and Arman were continually involved with each other creatively, both as Nouveaux Réalistes and as friends. Both from Nice, the two worked together for many years and Arman even named his son, Yves Arman after Yves Klein who was his god-father.
Sometimes the creation of these paintings was turned into a kind of performance art—an event in 1960, for example, had an audience dressed in formal evening wear watching the models go about their task while an instrumental ensemble played Klein’s 1949 The Monotone Symphony (a single 20-minute sustained chord followed by a 20-minute silence).
In the performance piece, Zone de Sensibilité Picturale Immatérielle (Zones of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility) 1959–62, he
offered empty spaces in the city in exchange for gold. He wanted his buyers to experience The Void by selling them empty space. In his view this experience could only be paid for in the purest material: gold. In exchange, he gave a certificate of ownership to the buyer. As the second part of the piece, performed on the Seine with an Art critic in attendance, if the buyer agreed to set fire to the certificate, Klein would throw half the gold into the river, in order to restore the “natural order” that he had unbalanced by selling the empty space (that was now not “empty” anymore). He used the other half of the gold to create a series of gold-leafed works, which, along with a series of pink monochromes, began to augment his blue monochromes toward the end of his life.
The critic Pierre Restany, whom he had met during his first public exhibition at the Club Solitaire,[not in citation given] 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 Spoerri, Jean Tinguely, and Jacques Villeglé, with Niki de Saint Phalle, Christoand 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’.[not in citation given]
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 proclamation of the “multiplicity of new possibilities.” In part, the manifesto declared:
At present, I am particularly excited by “bad taste.” I have the deep feeling that there exists in the very essence of bad taste a power capable of creating those things situated far beyond what is traditionally termed “The Work of Art.” I wish to play with human feeling, with its “morbidity” in a cold and ferocious manner. Only very recently I have become a sort of gravedigger of art (oddly enough, I am using the very terms of my enemies). Some of my latest works have been coffins and tombs. During the same time I succeeded in painting with fire, using particularly powerful and searing gas flames, some of them measuring three to four meters high. I use these to bathe the surface of the painting in such a way that it registered the spontaneous trace of fire.
Read the rest of his biography at wikipedia.
I obviously had fun while creating this painting. How often are you going to use your body as
the art tool? Well, I guess you can do it every day if you want to! It felt a little chaotic since you never know exactly how it’s going to turn out. I decided to paint in my bathroom so that I could jump in the shower after. Also, I don’t exactly have my new studio set up yet.
After using my breast…I decided the painting needed more so I did a hand print and other details.
I hope you enjoy my final piece and I’ll see you tomorrow Day 55!
Love these paintings so much…so spontaneous and challenging. And amazing to think he had a show and sold nothing as well. And will be following the blog now that I’ve found it too!
Thanks David! This has been quite a challenging and insane project. Love it and am learning so much…art history and painting/art techniques. Thanks for the follow and support. 🙂
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