‘It was the block of the body itself, that is to say the trunk and part of the thighs, that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful, and non-thinking. The head, the arms, the hands are only intellectual articulations around the bulk of flesh that is the body! The heart beats without thought on our part; the mind cannot stop it. Digestion works without our intervention, be it emotional or intellectual. We breathe without reflection. True, the whole body is made of flesh, but the essential mass is the trunk and the thighs. It is there that we find the real universe, hidden by the universe of our limited perception’ (Y. Klein, quoted in S. Stich, Yves Klein, Ostfildern-Ruit 1994, p. 175).
Centred on a single impression of a female torso rendered in the bold ultramarine of the artist’s signature IKB pigment, Ant 14 is a quintessential example of Yves Klein’s celebrated series of Anthropométries. With its stark focus on the trunk of the body, the chest, stomach and hips, Ant 14 reflects the artist’s original concern in his Anthropométries, which concentrate on the iconic nature of the body print as a vital and powerful signifier of the innate immaterial energy of human life. The dynamic, primordial trace of the human form in its immediacy is at once intimately connected with man’s desire to mark make, reminiscent in the Lascaux Cave paintings, and unabashedly modern. Ant 14 was previously in the collection of friend fellow artist and collaborator, Arman.
Marking a dramatic reintroduction of the human figure into a predominantly abstract nature of the art of the time, Klein’s Anthropométries were a sequence of often startlingly dynamic paintings made from the imprints of nude women coated in paint so as to become a sensuous rendition of the artist’s ‘living brushes’. Usually made in Klein’s own patented, intensely resonant blue pigment that he maintained to be indicative of a mystic immateriality (International Klein Blue), these works were a conceptual extension of Klein’s two great earlier series of works, his monolithic and conceptual ‘propositions’ of the void - the IKB monochromes - and his magnificent, strangely organic and otherworldly sponge relief landscapes. The intensity of Yves Klein’s trademark blue is literally embodied by the imprint of the model. In the works recording of the deep or light impressions of the female form according to the curves and contours of the model, Klein captures a sense of motion and animation along with the vital, living quality of the flesh. And the work is the result of a moment, which captures a real presence, a vital energy, in contrast to the Monochromes and the IKB, which were deliberately mechanical. As such, Ant 14 speaks to the fleeting temporal nature of existence and the spiritual energy continually pulsing through the body.
Material markings in deep blue of the corporeal essence of the human form-its torso-Klein’s Anthropométries are essentially icons or symbols of the inner vitality, energy and life of human beings translated into freeform, gestural and immaterially blue brushwork. An evolution of the earlier concept of the monochrome into the realm of action, gesture and performance, these works provide a pictorial parallel to that of Klein’s own creative journey and the total immersion and dissolution of his own identity and being into the art he called ‘the monochrome adventure’. Of all of Klein’s works, in fact, it is the Anthropomtéries that perhaps best encapsulate the artist’s enduring mystical belief in the ultimate destiny of mankind.