Yves Klein

As the story goes, the French artist Yves Klein claimed his space, literally, at age 19. While lying on the beach with two friends, they divided up the world, with Klein choosing sky, outer space around the Earth, and the infinite ether. He then proceeded to “sign” the air. With that gesture, the art world hasn’t been the same since. Klein’s prodigious, multi-disciplinary body of work (he died at age 34) included an obsession with a saturated version of lapis lazuli he dubbed “International Klein Blue.” He spread it monochromatically across canvases, dipped naked women in it and dragged them across surfaces like paintbrushes, sponged it onto pictures, and put tubs of the stuff next to fire paintings. He even created a cocktail (out of methelyne blue) for gallery visitors (it turns one’s urine blue for 24 hours). Whether Klein’s “Blue Revolution” was gimmick or genius, his peripatetic aptitude for experimentation bridged the then-categories of modern and postmodern (most of his work was created between 1954 and 1962). He also repeatedly returned to space, as metaphysical concept worthy of exploration of and liberation from. One of his most breathtaking images, a product of photomontage, is “Leap in the Void.” Here Klein swan dives from the second-story of a house into limitless possibility of his most beloved medium: space. On October 23, the Walker Art Center opens the first major retrospective of Klein’s work, which includes sculpture, painting, film, photography, and documents illuminating it all.
Oct. 23-Feb. 13, 2010

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