Yves Klein is a French artist, member of the Nouveau realisme group and inventor of the international Klein blue. This shade of blue is used in many of his famous paintings. During his short life, Yves had a great influence on the history of modern art. He created proto-conceptual works of art and proto-performances, and also explored the ideas of the immateriality of spirituality in art, gradually gaining recognition and fame throughout the world.
Yves was inspired by many things and found spirituality in his judo practice, Christianity and mysticism. He was born into a family of artists in 1928. His mother, Marie Raymond, was a renowned abstract painter, and his father, Fred Klein, created figurative paintings.
Despite his artistic roots, Yves initially dreamed of becoming a judoka. In 1947, he began to practice judo, and five years later went to Japan for training and received a black belt of the fourth dan. At the time, he was the only Frenchman to have such a belt. Yves even wrote a book on the basics of judo and wanted to become a teacher, so he opened his own judo school in 1955. It is worth noting that the school was designed in monochrome colors that are clearly visible in Yves' artwork.
He also learned about the mysticism of the Rosicrucian Order and read the works of the philosopher Gaston Bachelard. When he was nineteen years old, he read Max Heindel's Cosmogony, a book considered important to the Rosicrucian order. Eve was so fascinated by their philosophy and ideas that he began receiving lessons in the mail from the Rosicrucian Society of California. The artist also knew a lot about Buddhism and Buddhist teachings.
His spirituality can also be seen in the artist's dedication to Saint Rita of Cassia, patroness of lost deeds. To express his gratitude to Saint Rita, Yves donated a beautiful work of art, known as his "Ex-voto", to the monastery of Saint Rita Cassia in Italy in 1961. In this small but sophisticated work, the viewer can see all the typical visual elements of Willows, from monochrome colors to the international blue of Klein, which can be seen in his blue paintings. However, this work was discovered much later, in 1979. During his life, he made at least five pilgrimages to Cassia and even wrote a handwritten prayer to Saint Rita. It is also interesting to note that the building in Paris where Yves made his leap into the void later became a church dedicated to Saint Rita.
During his exhibition "Yves, Paintings in Paris", he met the art critic Pierre Restany. Pierre was a key figure in the development of the New Realism movement. This French art movement was founded in October 1960. The New Realism Manifesto was written on a piece of paper painted in the famous International Klein Blue. The manifesto was signed by the artist himself, Restani and six others. The artists who signed this document were Armand, Daniel Sperry, Jean Tingley, Raymond Haynes, François Dufresne and Jacques Villeglet. In the following years, artists such as Mimmo Rotella, Christo and Niki de Saint Phalle joined the movement.
The term "New Realism" was coined by Restani. Like New Realism, other new movements were Nouvelle Vague, also known as New Wave, and Neo-Dada. This movement is considered the French equivalent of American pop art.
The artists of New Realism used a variety of techniques and created a variety of works of art. They made collages, assemblies, wrappers, sculptures, proto-performances and much more. The new realists organized group exhibitions in 1962 and 1963, but the movement remained active for about ten years.
During his career, Yves collaborated with fellow Art Nouveau artist Jean Tingley. Together they made three kinetic sculptures. He also created relief portraits of fellow New Realism artists such as Armand and Martial Rice, based on life-size plaster models of their figures, which were also painted blue. Yves experimented with a kind of intangible art that soon became known as conceptual art. As such, it's safe to say that he had a great influence on concept art.
In his 1960 article Leap Into the Void, Yves presented his attempt to fly. In the black and white photograph, a handsomely dressed Yves falls from the sky and almost hits the sidewalk of a Parisian street in Fontenay-aux-Roses. The photographs document this performance by Ives. Artists Jean Kender and Harry Shank photographed the jump. However, the last photo is a montage, or, better to say, it is “photoshopped”. Indeed, the original shows how several people are holding a trampoline on which Eve falls.
Another protoconceptual work by Willow is called The Void. He declared his paintings invisible in 1958, and for the exhibition "Emptiness" at the Iris Klert Gallery in Paris, he wanted to further develop the idea of immateriality. Yves showed the empty gallery space. Nothing was visible inside, and the exhibition itself was a work of art. Interesting to know that during the opening, guests were served blue drinks.
For the opening of the exhibition, Yves released a thousand blue balloons into the sky. He even sold two intangible paintings at the Iris Klert Gallery. All of this is reminiscent of ideas related to conceptual art, happenings and performances, so that Yves Klein was still ahead of his time.
It's safe to say that he was fascinated by the idea of immateriality. Another fascinating work by Ives was called "The Zone of Intangible Pictorial Sensitivity." The work itself was immaterial and therefore invisible. People who decided to buy it received a receipt confirming ownership of the work. However, Yves did not accept money for this work. Payment could only be made in gold. Immediately after receiving gold, the artist threw some of it into the Seine or the sea. People who bought this work were asked to burn the checks they received earlier. In the end, the buyers were left with nothing, so the intangible part that Eve had in mind was achieved. The Zone of Intangible Pictorial Sensitivity is an excellent example of a proto-conceptual work of art.
For Yves, color was a way to get in touch with the immaterial and infinite. He began painting his monochrome in 1947 and even claimed that in the future, artists would only use one color in their work. Willow's most famous works are probably his blue paintings, but the artist also used pink, gold and orange in his monochrome paintings. During his artistic career, Yves painted about two hundred blue paintings.
Its blue color was supposed to symbolize immaterial, pure form and space. The blue was endless like the sky. Yves even trademarked this color in 1957 and named it International Klein Blue, or IKB. The blue had no dimensions. Willow was also inspired by the blue sky of Giotto's paintings in the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi, which he visited. In 1956, Yves organized an exhibition entitled Monochromes at the Colette Allendy Gallery in Paris.Here the artist exhibited only his monochrome works, including his blue paintings.
In 1957, he presented eleven of his blue paintings at the Apollinaire Gallery in Milan, Italy. The blue paintings were displayed at a distance of twenty centimeters from the wall, so that it seemed as if they were levitating in space. The canvases showed only a deep blue color, so that viewers could get lost in the color space of the blue paintings.
He even recreated several ancient sculptures and painted them blue. There is his beautiful version of "The Victory of Samothrace" and his "Venus Blue", modeled after the image of Venus de Milo. The artist also made a blue version of Michelangelo's Dying Slave sculpture.
To create his series of anthropometry in 1960, Yves ordered nude women to roll their bodies in blue paint and then leave marks on canvases. Therefore, the female bodies in this series played the role of brushes. The shade of blue paint was the same as in the blue paintings of the artist. For the anthropometry series, he was supposedly inspired by the way bodies leave marks on rugs in judo.
Yves also organized events to create anthropometric paintings. Guests were invited to watch models paint canvases blue with their bodies, drinking blue cocktails and listening to music. The artist's musical choice was also unusual. The symphony of Monotonous Silence, played during the drawing session, consisted of one note, which was repeated for twenty minutes, and then twenty minutes of silence.
Human bodies weren't the only interesting tool Eve used in his art creation process. The artist also created fascinating works and abstract shapes with fire. In 1961, he created a series of his Fire paintings, for which he used a blowtorch weighing almost eighty pounds. These works were carried out with the help of the laboratory of the National Gas Plant of France. There was always a firefighter next to Yves so that no accidents happened.
Continuing the topic, an article on how Helen Frankenthaler, a follower of Jackson Pollock, became one of the most prominent abstract painters of its time, which has received many awards and recognition all over the world.
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