After Tate Liverpool, Bozar is currently hosting the exhibition about French artist Yves Klein in Brussels. You have probably heard about Yves Klein as the artist who is obsessed by the color blue. But, as you will read further on, that is only part of the story. When entering the exhibition room the first thing you see is a large black and white photograph of the artist jumping out of his window on the street side. It is called ‘Leap into the Void‘. The window is only on the second floor so it seems like he will crash to the ground immediately. The picture is not about gravity or the question wether he really jumped or not. It is far more interesting to look at the reason for this leap into the void. Why is he jumping? And what is he jumping into?
Born in 1928, Klein grew up in a family of artists. He was passionate about Judo and didn’t plan on becoming an artist himself. During a Judo training in Japan he got in touch with Eastern philosophy and the immaterial. One day he was lying on the ground looking at the sky. In his mind he signed the sky with his own name and called it his first real work of art, even though it was more a concept than a material object. The universe became a crucial theme in his later artistic career.
Klein was quite a spiritual person, but more in a humanistic than a religious way. When he started making monochrome paintings in the 50s he was repeatedly ignored and misunderstood. Some critics didn’t see him as an artist because he made entire canvasses with only one color. They also criticized the way he applied the paint with a paint roller in stead of a brush. He was a perfectionist though and he put a lot of effort in his monochromes. If you look closely you will see that they are all different.
Ultramarine blue became his favorite color because it suggests both the sea and the sky. He used to say: “Blue has no dimensions. It is beyond dimensions.” He even patented the color ‘International Klein Blue (IKB)’. With this color he tried to create what he called ‘the void‘. You shouldn’t see it as emptiness because you can feel something standing in front of it. I don’t think he tried to create a religious experience for the audience like Rothko attempted, but he did want to provoke a sensation of the infinite, of freedom.
Painting wasn’t the only way of expressing himself trough art. He also used fire, water, dirt, gold, sponges you can find on the beach and the human body. Over the years he started performing and interacting with the audience more and more. A little more controversial are his ‘Anthropometries‘, prints of nude women covered in ultramarine paint. He acted as the orchestrator and the women did whatever he asked them to do. I think his most radical work of art was the ‘Monotone Silence Symphony‘ he created in 1949. During a performance, he made an orchestra play one musical chord for 20 minutes, followed by a full 20 minutes of complete silence, long before John Cage invented his 4’33”.
Unfortunately Klein died at the age of 34 after a series of heart attacks, before getting the full respect of the art world he deserved.
Until 20 August ’17 at Bozar, Brussels.
The entrance fee is rather high (€16) but I think it’s worth it. Enjoy!