Walking into a room of Yves Klein’s artwork can be a confusing and maddening experience, my first reaction was not very note worthy. I loved the blue pigment that Klein used for most of his work, which I didn’t know at the time but with further research I found out it was a pigment that Klein created, it is called International Klein blue.
So here are all these monochrome paintings done in International Klein blue, and then there are these pieces of work that either include a natural sponge or is a natural sponge covered in pigment. Also there are several pieces that are done with gold leaf, or monopink (as Klein called it), this is what is pictured above, Titled: Le Rose du Bleu’. What is the meaning behind all of them? Is there a meaning?
Yves Klein is one artist where you have to read about him and know his background to truly understand the content of his art work. Although Klein’s art work appears to belong in the category of modernism, because of its appearance; a large painting of one color, but Klein has a meaning to his monochrome paintings. He has a point which he is trying to get across to the viewer, a point that is more easily understood when one knows contextual information about Klein.
When reading about Yves Klein, I was surprised time after time, if one was to lay out a timeline of Klein’s life and experiences you could almost see how he evolved into the artist who made these striking blue monochromes.
Not long into his life, Klein embarked on his “monochrome adventure”, the norm of being a mere painter was not enough for Klein, who had studied the mystical society of Rosicrucianism (the study of metaphysical, mystical, and alchemical lore), as well as Zen Buddhism. Knowing that Klein had this sense for spiritual exploration is very important in understanding the content of his work.
As a student of those religions, Klein entertained esoteric and faith based ideas in which blue played a vital role as the color of infinity. Could this possibly be why Klein chose to create International Klein blue? Why didn’t Klein choose to create a different pigment for his work? It is theorized Klein created International Klein blue because the color blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions, whereas the other colors are not. I can believe this to be true, especially because certain colors evoke a pre-described image that our minds will always conjure once we visually intake that color. The color blue seems to relate closest to the sky and the sea, not surprisingly a choice of Klein’s seeing as he “signed the sky” as his first work of art, when on the beach with some friends.
Klein wanted to move beyond abstract painting, he wanted painting to no longer be a still object. For it to be a kind of performance, a dramatic device that interacted with the audience. What kind of performance, though, is seen in these monochrome paintings? Can a painting that has an absence of variables, interact with the viewer? In Klein’s paintings, that include natural sponges there is more texture to catch the eye, and a shift in the tone of the pigment where it fills the crevices in the sponges. Like in the above pictured painting; Le Rose du Bleu, there are dark and light tones, not just an even blue.
My eyes were more attracted to this painting then any of Klein’s other works, most likely because I use a lot of texture in my own artwork, but also because this was one of the few paintings that wasn’t done in International Klein blue. There isn’t a good way to describe the color of this painting, the pigment is so far between red and pink that I would call it pink maroon. For the first couple of minutes that I stared at this painting the color gave me an almost wretched feeling. With the combination of pink maroon pigment and bulbous sponges, I could not help thinking about the sponges being some sort of blister or sore. If you stand up close to this painting, it becomes a new piece of art. The pebbles and sponges create a unique landscape that is completely entertaining, but still as baffling as any of Klein’s other works.
To understand Yves Klein’s art work, you might just have to study the man who created it, for a very long, possibly a lifetime. Even then, once you’ve done your research and know all there is to know about Klein, there is a chance that you still won’t see his art work as he wanted you to. I know what Klein is trying to say with his paintings, I even understand it (to some degree), but I don’t get that from his paintings. The painting ‘Le Rose du Bleu’ still makes me uneasy when I look at it for too long, and I see no reason for why I like it. I do like all of Klein’s paintings because in each one there is an absence of anything but color; color which leads me to the sky and down a river, into the earth and over the fire. Into each element of the earth that Klein included in his art work.