Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Color Icon: Yves Klein

Yves Klein
No color blog would be complete without a post on the great Yves Klein! Born in 1928 in Nice, France, to a pair of painters, Klein rose to prominence in the art world in the post-war era. He, along with art critic  Pierre Restany, founded the Nouveau réalisme movement which is seen as one of the major precursors to both Minimalism and Pop art. Impressive right? But behind the fancy art world credentials was an artist insatiably curious about color.

Monochrome bleu sans titre (IKB 128), 1960 (janvier), 40 x 25 cm
Klein's most famous color explorations were termed the Blue Epoch. Large canvas'  were rolled with a rich  lapis lazulian hue. The color, which came to be known as International Klein Blue (or IKB), has been compared to the blue of medieval depictions of the Virgin Mary's robes. He sealed his secret color recipe for safe keeping and as a record of the "authenticity of the pure idea."

At his first show of these monochromatic paintings, which included not just blue but red, yellow, orange and pink paintings as well, audiences, to Kleins great dislike, took his painting as brightly colored interior design. This reaction lead him to throw out the other colors and exhibit paintings in only his signature blue.

Anthropométrie de l'époque bleue (ANT 82), 1960, 156,5 x 282,5 cm.
The  famous blue, which was co-developed by Klein and Rhône Poulenc a french pharmaceutical company, was tailored to look as bright and high chroma as dry pigment. With his signature color settled he experimented with various methods of applying the paint. He stared with rollers, focusing on evenness and distribution but soon played with sponges, fingers, and even women's bodies as "living brushes."

Grande Anthropophagie bleue Hommage à Tennessee Williams (ANT 76), 1960, 275 x 407 cm.
Color wasn't the only thing Klein explored. His performance art and photography all drove the art world in new directions. There is so much more to learn about this icon in the history of color, read on!

All images via the Yves Klein Archive.


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