The Blue Revolution: YVES KLEIN

Visionary. Provocateur. Daring. Ahead of his time. One of the most influential yet under-known artists of the 20th century, Yves Klein virtually reinvented contemporary art in the 1950s with his embrace of space and fascination with the immaterial. From signing the sky and creating his own blue pigment that represented it to painting with fire and flesh, Klein paved the way for the conceptual, minimal, and performance art movements that followed. He made monochromatic paintings and sculptures, constructed a gallery exhibition out of nothing, threw the value of a work of art into a river, used nude bodies like brushes to apply paint to paper, let the wind and rain shape his canvases, and took a monumental leap into the void.


A Rosicrucian and martial arts master, Klein had an intellectual and spiritual relationship with art that went beyond what most artists ever consider. From his first public gesture, a publication of his monochromatic paintings in 1954, to his premature death in 1962, he experimented with a wide variety of avant-garde media including silent symphonies, faux newspapers, and air architecture. When he made his famous leap into the void, he stated, “to paint space, I must be in position. I must be in space.” Declared at the time when the US and Russia were first sending astronauts in the outer atmosphere, Klein’s claim to a realm beyond the world we inhabit is still his to hold.


The hypnotizing, intensely saturated and undeniably beautiful deep blue hue patented as International Klein Blue (IKB), was developed by French artist Yves Klein as part of his search for colors which best represented the concepts he wished to convey as an artist. IKB’s visual impact comes from its heavy reliance on Ultramarine, as well as Klein’s often thick and textured application of paint to canvas. IKB was developed by Klein and chemists to have the same color brightness and intensity as dry pigments, which it achieves by suspending dry pigment in polyvinyl acetate, a synthetic resin marketed in France as Rhodopas M or M60A by the firm Rhône Poulenc.


Although Klein had worked with blue extensively in his earlier career, it was not until 1958 that he used it as the central component of a piece (the color effectively becoming the art). Klein embarked on a series of monochromatic works using IKB as the central theme. These included performance art, where Klein painted models’ naked bodies and had them walk, roll and sprawl upon blank canvases as well as more conventional single-color canvases.


Sources: Yves Klein Archives & 5election – The International Coolhunting Magazine