Currently featured at the Tate Liverpool UK is an exhibition showcasing the fantastical work of French artist Yves Klein, a post-war era artist who took the European art world by storm. Presenting around 40 major works, the display throws new light on Klein’s artistic practise and is viewed with fresh contextual perspectives. On until the 5th of March 2017, this exhibition brings together never seen before work alongside his infamous Anthropometry paintings, eccentric Fire Paintings (created using flame throwers as well as sculptures), photographs, planetary-reliefs and his gorgeous pure-colour monochrome paintings.
Best known for his own invented colour, International Klein Blue (IKB) – that was used across many of his works. Klein challenged his audience to experience the art of pure colour, envisioning an expression of absolute immateriality and infinite space. His work embodied his bold attitude towards art and life, and was not only a heavy influencer for later generations of creatives, but also foresaw significant artistic movements such as pop, conceptual, installation and performance art.
Klein embraced many art disciplines from painting, sculpture, performance, theatre, music, film, and architecture. One of his defining pieces of work is Anthropométries, a piece of performance art that used nude females as both “living brushes” and “pure colour” to create paintings. The result visualised and reduced the human body to the pure essentials, Klein called these “the most concentrated expression of vital energy imaginable.”
Some feminists however, have been quick to critique Klein for using females as instruments in his work and have compared the description of “living brushes” and “pure colour” to objectification of women and proliferating “the ideal” trope. There’s also debate stated in the 6th issue of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society outlining Klein’s usage of nude females as “live brushes”, is the artist distancing himself from his subject matter and his artistic process, thus the artist-to-model relationship develops into a power dynamic.
Considering simply the surface value, the images made from these performances have a beautiful vitality and dynamic energy, cleverly conveying in a static image, the primary characteristic and function of the human body: movement. Perhaps this piece can be viewed as a radical display of rebellion, as Klein fiercely challenges the imprisoning and academic restrictions that limited artists and their creative freedom.
Klein’s work is continuing to have a huge impact on the creative industry. Most recently the Céline Spring/Summer 2017 collection, presented at the Tennis Club de Paris, featured a recurring splash of the Nouveau Réalisme artist’s trademark colour, International Klein Blue. Dresses adorned the signature images created from Klein’s Anthropometry paintings and another dipped dyed in his IKB.
Although there has been critiques of Klein’s work from a feminist point of view, it’s hard to disregard Klein’s artistry innovation. Breaking the mold of traditional artistic etiquettes and characteristics, he marked his own new and exciting path, and with him followed the world.
Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, in a special 2006 issue, “New Feminist Theories of Visual Culture.”
Klein. Y. Anthropométries paintings Archive (1960). [Online] Available at: http://www.yveskleinarchives.org/works/works1_us.html [Accessed 05/01/17]
Céline Summer Spring 2017 Collection (2016). [Online] Available at: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/celine-paris-fashion-week-yves-klein-blue-682937 [Accessed 05/01/17]