15 October 2006
Yves Klein (1928-1962)
pigment and synthetic resin on canvas laid down on board
20 5/8 x 17¾in. (52.5 x 45cm.)
Executed in 1959
Galerie Schröer, Krefeld (167-001).
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York (15820).
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
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P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, no. IKB 119 (illustrated, on the cover).
P. Restany, 'A Rare Collection in Israel', in: Cimaise, revue de l'art actuel, no. 246, April-May 1997 (illustrated, unpaged).
Yves Klein's monochromes were the first and purest expressions of his concept of a 'zone of immateriality' - a mystic void that he believed existed beyond the confines of conventional notions of time and space. Klein believed man had a kind of sixth sense - an innate sensibility to this mystic zone - that could be stimulated by colour. Through the monochrome colour of his these paintings he hoped to provoke an awareness in the viewer of the profound reality of this void. For Klein the realm of the 'immaterial' not only lay outside of man's conventional wisdom but was to be the arena of his future. Believing the third millennium would herald a new spiritual age in which the artist as creator would develop a pure freedom within which to interact with this spiritual dimension, he sought through his own creativity to develop man's awareness to the void and to his enormous creative potential.
Klein's mystic beliefs came from a fusion of his awareness of Eastern philosophy (Klein had spent a year in Japan learning to master the higher disciplines of the martial art of Judo) and from his keen following of the gnostic principles of the Rosicrucians whom he had first read about in 1949 in Max Heindel's book La Cosmologie des Rose-Croix. In this book a predominantly alchemical theory of the world is proposed that interprets the universe as consisting solely of primal energy. All space and all matter is infused with such energy. Matter is essentially confined or bound energy while spatial energy is limitless and free. The artist - through the freedom of his mind - can crystallize the boundless free energy of space and materialise it into a form that resonates with the energy of infinite space. Not only do Klein's monochromes do precisely this, but they visibly demonstrate the process of their materialisation by being very nearly immaterial themselves.
Having settled on pure colour as the immaterial medium through which he hoped to 'impregnate' the viewer with a sense of the mystic, Klein selected blue amongst all the colours to be the material vehicle through which to express the immaterial void. It was an inevitable choice given that Klein had grown up on the Mediterranean coast in Nice. Of all the colours, Klein considered blue to be the least material and the most infused with a sense of the infinite, being the colour of the sky and of the sea.
In the application of blue however Klein wanted to avoid there being any visible sense of surface to his works. They should have no edge and should reveal no brushstrokes, for his monochromes were not to be conceived of as paintings nor as windows but as materialisations of the void. Klein solved these problems by softening the edges of the paintings and by using pigment instead of paint. Pure pigment had an ethereal quality that fitted Klein's purpose perfectly It seemed like materialised colour and when applied to a surface blended with it leaving no visible trace of the manner its application.
In order to further stimulate the viewer's sensibility Klein sought a pure tone of blue that would radiate with an intensity appropriate for the mystic energy it contained. After much experiment he devised the purest and most intense shade of blue he could and had the new colour officially patented in his name. The colour was called 'International Klein Blue' and because they were physical manifestations of this colour it is was by this name that he titled his monochrome paintings. This work is 'International Klein Blue' (IKB) 119. It was executed in 1959 and, incidentally, was the work selected to adorn the cover of Paul Wember's 1969 catalogue raisonné of Yves Klein's work.
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