In preparation for the opening of "Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers" we are experimenting with letting the artist himself introduce the show. From May 1 until the exhibition opens on May 20, the Hirshhorn is going to turn its social media outlets over to Klein. Audiences will experience him in his own words, as he explains his goals, process, artworks and projects. "For this first U.S. retrospective in nearly 30 years of one of the 20th century's most influential artists, we felt it was essential not only to present Klein as the maker of beautiful objects but also as a thinker, a philosopher who paved the way for future generations," says exhibition co-curator Kerry Brougher, chief curator and deputy director of the Museum. This launches a brand new programmatic endeavor using today's communications tools to provide dynamic, thought-provoking content that extends the ideas and energy of the exhibition. Quotes by Klein will be posted daily to Twitter and Facebook with links to accompanying images, video and audio on Flickr and YouTube. As the material is made available through social media, it will also be posted to this ongoing timeline that will be built up daily on the Hirshhorn website. At the end of 20 days, audiences will have a complete record of the daily postings collected in one place. Thus Klein will live online, a platform that fulfills his expressed desire “to realize in my own creations that 'transparence,' that immeasurable ‘void’ in which lives the permanent and absolute spirit freed of all dimensions.”
Created by hmsgwebmaster on Apr 19, 2010
Last updated: 05/21/10 at 01:55 PM
"...I'd concentrate alone in the room & then present a sensitive pictorial space to the public."
January 21, 1962: The wedding of Yves Klein and Rotraut Uecker
“My walls of fire and my walls of water are, with the roofs of air, materials for a new architecture. With these three classical elements, fire, air, and water, the city of tomorrow will be constructed; it will at last be flexible, spiritual, and immaterial.”
—Yves Klein, excerpt from “The Evolution of Art Toward the Immaterial,” lecture at the Sorbonne [Trans. Nicole Batefort]
The functional goal of the architecture of air is to propose the creation of air-conditioned volumes of a type that protect 20 meters of ground from
atmospheric phenomena and others—and to install thus a kind of "living" on the surface while closets, supplies, kitchens, bathrooms, showers, toilets, etc. are placed below ground.
above ground below ground
—Yves Klein [Trans. Klaus Ottmann]
“It was in 1955 that I first presented my Fire Paintings. Right away I realized the immense possibilities of this living material. If all that changes slowly is linked to life, then all that is transformed rapidly is explained by Fire.”
—Yves Klein, handwritten text, 1961 [Trans. Constance Perrot and Chrisoula Petridis]
Fire has created the civilization and has established the reign of the human in nature. All facts that are contradictory are genuine principles of universal explanation. Thus fire is a human reality as well a cosmic state. Where THE VOID is found there also lies fire. Blue is fire, gold is fire, rose is fire as well. Standing between the blue and the fire I know now that essentially I am a realist of today and yesterday, as well as tomorrow.
—Yves Klein, English text for "Yves le Monochrome" exhibition catalogue, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York
Yves Klein in California, 1961
“I would never have believed fifteen years ago at the time of my earliest efforts that I would feel so suddenly the responsibility to explain myself—to satisfy your desire to know the whys and the wherefores of all that has occurred and the still more dangerous whys and wherefore for me, in other words—the influence of my art on the young generation of artists throughout the world today. It disturbs me to hear that a certain number of them think that I represent a danger to the future of art…. An artist always feels a little uneasy when called upon to speak of his own works. They should speak for themselves, particularly if they are valid works.”
—Yves Klein, “Chelsea Hotel Manifesto,” 1961
“Krefeld will be recognized…as one of the most sensational and pictorial and spiritual events of these last two or three years.” -Yves Klein
Yves Klein presents: Dimanche, 27 November 1960. The Newspaper of a Single Day. The Blue Revolution Continues. -Yves Klein
Selections from Dimanche: http://hirshhorn.si.edu/Klein/Dimanche.pdf
leap outside and there I am on the riverbank amidst the bulrush and the reeds. I dust everything with pigments and the wind, which bends the delicate stems, comes to apply it with precision and delicacy upon my canvas that I thus present to the trembling nature: I obtain a vegetal mark. Then it begins to rain, a fine spring shower; I expose my canvas to the rain, and it is done. I have captured the mark of rain! The mark of an atmospheric occurrence….
Excerpt from “Truth Becomes Reality,” in "Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein," ed. and trans. Klaus Ottmann (Spring Publications, 2007), 188.
Having had rejected brushes as too excessively psychological already earlier, I painted with rollers, in order to remain anonymous and at a “distance” between the canvas and myself during the execution, at least intellectually.… Now, what a miracle, the brush returned, but this time it is alive: it was the flesh itself that applied the color to the canvas, under my direction, with a perfect precision, allowing me to remain constantly at an exact distance “x” from my canvas and thus continue to dominate my creation during the entire execution.
Excerpt from “Truth Becomes Reality,” in “Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein,” trans. Klaus Ottmann (Spring Publications, 2007), p. 186–87.
The creator must command his creation, keep it at a distance, in order to paint without touching the paint, the canvas, or the brush.
However, in order to maintain “continuity” between the creator and his creation, it is necessary to employ living intermediaries between the creator and his work. The tools of flesh, the nude models in the studio, are the new living brushes of the painter of today; these models must paint with their bodies only, i.e., the trunk and hips, nothing more. The hands and feet, the psychological parts of the body, should be used by the models merely for smearing paint of a chosen color onto their bodies. Which is obviously the color blue!”
Yves Klein [Trans. Klaus Ottmann]
“Although this may seem incredible, I have sought, in GELSENKIRCHEN, to create miniatures, measuring twenty by seven meters.
And this is why you see this structure move, titillate, excite the color, the blue.
I have always looked very closely, millimeter by millimeter, at my monochromes, which appear flat and uniform when they have the dimensions of easel paintings. In GELSENKIRCHEN, I hesitated to enlarge each detail proportionately. Had I done so, the relief would now be much more significant than it actually is.
But the color is there. This is the essential point! In any event, whether there is more or less relief, I know that the blue kills the relief!”
Excerpt from “The Concept for Gelsenkirchen,” in Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann (Spring Publications, 2007), p. 43–44.
“Technology is but the means; science, like art, is the end.” -Yves Klein
Lecture at Sorbonne in Paris, June 3, 1959.
“’The Blue Revolution,’ a movement leading to the transformation of modes of thought and action of a people…” -Yves Klein
Radlodiffusion—Télévision Française 28 May 1957 Bonjour Mesdames Guest: Yves Klein French painter Music…. Intro… Announcer….etc….. MD: Bonjour Frank and Bonjour Mesdames…. Today we want you to meet Yves Klein, a young French painter who has two extraordinary exhibitions taking place in Paris. The art critics (to say nothing of the public) have been startled by what Yves Klein calls his “Propositions Monochromes—in Blue Period.” Imagine paintings, tapestries, screens, in which the language of the painter is pure color only. In which the value of color is explored to its last degree. Yves, they say you’ve crashed the “form barrier” in abstract painting…. YK: (with a smile) They say a lot of things, Marjorie…. MD: They certainly do, and none of it boring. You’ve given movie news and TV a festival; you’ve given the critics a shot on the arm; and you’ve shocked the public into another dimension, whether they know it or not. Now tell us what the artist himself has to say about his Monochrome in Blue Period…. YK: Quite simply, I’ve been working in this medium since 1949. That is to say, ever since I felt that color could be a picture in itself, or the contemplation of color in and for itself. MD: Could we say that in this electronic day, you speak in art through the vibration of color? YK: That’s very well said, Marjorie. Yes, it’s a kind of bath in a cosmos of color. MD: “Cosmic” is a good name for that deep, disturbing Blue Period of yours. Yves, I wish we could quote from all the critics… It’s truly a headline story. Some of them think you’re crazy, but they are unanimous (like Pierre Restany) in saying that you’ve created a revolution. The very art of that painting is challenged, etc. YK: Maybe this is the challenge to do something new and different. MD: Yves, as this broadcast goes to America, let me read what the New York Herald so conservatively says, and I quote… [New York Herald article] YK: I find it very fair. MD: How about the United States? Have they had time yet to react to your monochromes? YK: Not really, but one was bought for the Frank Perls Gallery and when Mr. Stanley Marcus, from Dallas, Texas, was here, he bought one. MD: Mr. Marcus, as you probably know, has a famous collection of master paintings. YK: Yes, I know. He was most amusing about mine. The first time he came, he just laughed. The second time, he shook his head, smile, and went away. But the third time, he said, ‘I know I’m crazy, but it’s have it.’ MD: Have you heard from him since? YK: I haven’t, but Iris Clert of the Clert Galleries had a letter from Mr. Marcus. Would you like to see it? MD: May I read it? YK: I don’t think he’d mind. MD: “Dear Iris, My Yves Klein has proved to be one of the most sensational purchases I have ever made. I will be sending you lots of customers this summer…. Signed, Stanley Marcus.” YK: As you can imagine, I am very pleased about that. MD: You’ve had a number of exhibitions, Yves…. YK: Oh yes, many. Recently, I had an exhibition in Milan at the Galleria Apollinaire. This is where I tried out my “Blue Period” for the first time. MD: What was the Italian reaction? YK: Quite astonishing really. They bought everything I had. I was very pleased and so was the gallery. MD: You haven’t always painted in this radiant blue flame? YK: No, of course not. When I was in Tokyo, my monochromes were in grey or pink, and, you know, I believe it was the appreciation of the Japanese that gave me the courage to go on in this medium. Before that, I only painted for myself and my friends. You see, I was afraid the public would think I was “off my [rocker]”…. MD: (laughs) Yves, tell us about you…. How you became a painter and everything…. YK: Well, I grew up painting, Marjorie. My father is a well-known painter. My mother is a painter, too. MD: So it was quite natural that you should be painter three. Yves, what took you to Japan? YK: Judo, Marjorie. MD: Judo? YK: Yes, didn’t you know judo is my hobby? And Japan is the place to learn it. MD: Are you still a judo enthusiast? YK: Oh, yes. Always well be. MD: You are the highest grade in judo in Europe, I believe? You have the black belt fourth DAN. YK: And I have my own judo club here in Paris. Come over some time and see us at work, Marjorie. MD: Providing you give me some easy lessons to use on negative people! What a perfect partnership…monochromes and judo…. It’s wonderful. YK: More wonderful than you think (with a laugh). As you know, there are vibrations around my monochromes that are not exactly color, so judo gives me that much needed poise…. MD: To serenely pass the critic’s barrier…. But who isn’t criticized when they do something revolutionary? If you’ve crashed the barrier of form and shape in painting, you’ve opened up a new world that stimulates the imagination with color vibration. You will of course go on developing color in and for itself? YK: I have no other choice, Marjorie, since color and its vibration have chosen me. MD: Thank you, Yves Klein. You and your work are an exciting experience. We’ll be going along with you even in judo…. Transcript of interview, in "Yves Klein USA," trans. Constance Perrot and Chrisoula Petridis (Dilecta, 2009), 192–93.
Unfortunately, it became apparent from the responses to that occasion, and especially during a debate organized at Galerie Colette ALLENDY, that many of the spectators, being prisoners of a conditioned way of seeing the relationships between the different propositions (relationships of colors, of intensities, of dimensions and architectural integration), were recombining the canvases in their mind into one single polychrome installation. It is this that led me to push my attempt further still, this time in Italy at Galleria Apollinaire in Milan, in an exhibition dedicated to what I dared to call my Blue Period. (In fact, I had already dedicated myself for more than a year to the search for the most perfect expression of Blue.)
This exhibition included ten* paintings in dark ultramarine blue, all of them rigorously similar in tone, intensity, proportions, and dimensions. The rather passionate controversy that arose from this manifestation proved to me the value of the phenomenon and the real profundity of the upheaval that comes in its wake to those unwilling to submit passively to the sclerosis of accepted ideas and set rules.
*Most sources confirm that there were eleven IKB paintings
Excerpt from “Speech to Gelsenkirchen Theater Commission,” in “Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein,” trans. Klaus Ottmann, 41.
Each painting’s blue world, although all of the same color blue and treated in the same way, revealed itself to be of an entirely different essence and atmosphere; none resembled the other, not anymore than pictorial moments and poetic moments can resemble one another…. The most sensational observation was that of the “buyers.” Each selected the one that pleased them the most among the displayed paintings, and paid its price. The prices, of course, were all different.
Excerpt from “The Monochrome Adventure,” in “Yves Klein USA,” trans. Constance Perrot and Chrisoula Petridis (Dilecta, 2009), 18.
“Last night, Wednesday, we went to a café where abstract painters are known to meet and, of course, they were there. You can easily recognize them since they exude the same atmosphere as their abstract paintings and you can see the compositions in their eyes. I may be experiencing illusions, but I truly do have the impression of seeing this. In any case, we were seated among them… We came to discuss the book Yves Peintures. Later on in the evening, they kept insisting on seeing it. I went to get it from the car and threw it onto the table. By the first page, already their eyes began to change. They lit up, and, in the depths of their stares appeared beautiful and pure monochromatic colors.”
Yves Klein, handwritten text dated January 13, 1955, in "Yves Klein USA," trans. Constance Perrot and Chrisoula Petridis (Dilecta, 2010), 14–15.
“For my part, the art of painting consists in liberating the first state of matter. Ordinary painting, painting as it is commonly understood, is a prison window whose lines, contours, forms, and composition are all determined by bars. The lines concretize our mortality, our emotional life, our reason, and even our spirituality. They are our psychological boundaries, our historic past, our education, our skeletal framework; they are our weaknesses and our desires, our faculties and our contrivances.
Color, on the other hand, is the natural and human measure; it bathes in a cosmic sensibility. The sensibility of a painter is not encumbered by mysterious nooks and crannies. Contrary to what the line tends to lead us to believe, it is like humidity in the air; color is sensibility become matter—matter in its first, primal state.”
Yves Klein, from “My Position in the Battle Between Line and Color,” in "Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein," trans. Klaus Ottmann (Spring Publications, 2007), 106.
“I thus seek to individualize color for I have reached the conclusion that each color expresses a living world, and I express these worlds in my paintings. […] There are nuances that are gentle, mad, violent, majestic, vulgar, calm, etc. In short, each color nuance is clearly a “presence,” a living being, an active force that is born and that dies after living a sort of drama in the world of colors.”
Yves Klein, presentation text for "Yves: Peintures" exhibition, in "Yves Klein USA," trans. Constance Perrot and Chrisoula Petridis (Dilecta, 2010), 16.
Selection from Yves Klein: The Blue Revolution. Director: François Lévy-Kuentz. Courtesy Yves Klein Archives. Coproduction © 2006 MK2TV, Le Centre Pompidou, Y Amu Klein/Moquay in association with France 5. Video © 2007 Le Réunion des musées nationaux—EDV 288
“I always thought that it was much better to smash down doors rather than waste time looking for the key, and through lack of calm and coolness, to fail to even find the keyhole.
When I arrived in Japan I ridiculed the Katas and of all the secrets that were supposed to be hidden there.
Previously, in Europe, both Katas that I had practiced (Nage-no and Katemo-no) had not impressed me at all. I think today that it is because they had never been correctly taught to me.
I thus thought only of smashing doors with even more power and force, to “smash best,” more and more quickly, while I saw around me innumerable quantities of keys which seemed able to open doors without damage, without deploying useless power.
It took me a good six months in Japan, of sensational and unchained brawls, alongside wise and erudite Katas, before I came, exhausted, tired, and annoyed, to a final door that was too thick for me to break down. Finally, angrily, I took the key, that had been there all along, from one of the gently smiling old masters of the Kôdôkan. And I opened the door by quite simply turning the key in the lock.
It is only since I began the study of Katas that I have possessed the keys of Judo, “the keys of the famous doors, thick or not!”
…And the ordinary public does not see anything interesting in the fact that one opens a door with a key instead of smashing it down brutally. One says: “Yes, obviously, it is too simple, everyone can do it.” Yet to smash a door seems increasingly ludicrous!”
Foreword to Yves Klein’s "Les Fondements du Judo," originally published 1954. English edition, "The Foundations of Judo," trans. Ian Whittlesea (Everyday Press, 2009).
“I have often been asked if judo played a part in my pictorial conception. I have until now always answered that it did not. In fact, this is inaccurate: judo gave me much. I began it almost at the same time as my painting. One like the other has lived with me like I live with my physical body!”
“Judo has helped me to understand that pictorial space is above all the product of spiritual exercises. Judo is, in fact, the discovery by the human body of a spiritual space.”
Yves Klein in "Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein," trans. Klaus Ottmann (Spring Publications, 2007), 2, 4.
Just an adolescent in 1946, I went to sign my name on the underside of the sky during a fantastic “realistico-imaginary” journey. That day, as I lay on the beach at Nice, I began to hate the birds which occasionally flew in my pure, unclouded blue sky, because they tried to bore holes in my greatest and more beautiful work.
Excerpt from “Chelsea Hotel Manifesto,” in Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann, 199.
Image: Yves Klein, "Le ciel au-dessus de Nice [The Sky Above Nice]", published in ZERO, 1961. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Courtesy Yves Klein Archives
"Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers"
May 20–September 12, 2010
“I am the painter of space. I am not an abstract painter but, on the contrary, a figurative artist, and a realist. Let us be honest, to paint space, I must be in position. I must be in space.” —Yves Klein
Images: Yves Klein, "Le Saut dans le vide" [Leap into the Void], at 5, rue Gentil-Bernard, Fontenay-aux-Roses, October 1960. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photos by Shunk-Kender, © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation, courtesy Yves Klein Archives
Yves Klein Takes a Leap into Facebook and Twitter "Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers" opens at the Hirshhorn on May 20. For this first US retrospective in nearly thirty years of one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists, whose work marks a pivotal transition between modern art’s concern with the material object and contemporary notions of the conceptual natural of art, we felt it was essential not only to present Klein as the maker of beautiful objects, but also as a thinker, a philosopher who paved the way for future generations of artists. His body of work was diverse and moved beyond traditional media like painting and sculpture to include performance, photography, music, architecture, and theoretical writing as well as plans for projects in theater, dance, and cinema. He may also have been one of the first artists consciously to blur the lines between his work and life, between painting and performance, between object and idea, even between being an artist and a magician. Therefore, it is necessary not only to create an exhibition of his physical works, which are numerous and exist in a variety of forms, but to present the full range of his creative endeavor and to resurrect the artist himself by allowing him to tell his own story. Therefore, as we approach the opening of the exhibition, we wanted to try an experiment, to have the artist himself introduce the show and present to viewers the range of his projects and the scope of what they will experience in the exhibition itself. Each day, a different aspect of Klein’s remarkably prolific, yet dramatically short career (which ended at the age of 34 when he died of a heart attack) will take center stage, presented through quotes, photos, video and audio recordings that let Klein himself explain his goals, process, artworks, and projects to the audience. Thus, Klein will live through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the Hirshhorn’s website, truly providing him the chance to, as he expressed a desire to do, “to realize in my own creations that ‘transparence,’ that immeasurable ‘void’ in which lives the permanent and absolute spirit freed of all dimensions.”