Influenced by the spirit of judo, by Giotto’s frescoes in Assisi, Delacroix’s use of color, Gaston Bachelard’s book L’Air et les songes, Yves Klein created a “cosmological” form of art: he saw space as his domain, one that he could access simply by the power of his mind.
In 1961, Yuri Gagarin, the astronaut on the first manned space flight, declared that the Earth is blue. Yves Klein had anticipated this in 1957 with his Globe, which he painted blue. A famous portrait by Harry Shunk and John Kender shows the artist in his studio with legs crossed, a pensive expression on his face and the Blue Globe levitating in front of him. Concentrating on—but certainly not marveling at—the anti-gravitational miracle taking place before him, the artist observes the phenomenon as if it were perfectly natural. This is simply the logical culmination of his artistic work, a direct echo of his “Obsession with levitation”—the subtitle of his famous Leap into the Void (1960), for which Klein launched himself out of a house window, his face set skywards, arms akimbo. Rather than falling, he seems to be taking off.
Also at this time, Klein made his Fire Paintings and Cosmogonies, which bear the direct imprint of the creative power of nature. The works Pluie bleue (S 36) and Pluie rouge (S 37), comprising, respectively, twelve and eleven wooden rods covered with pure pigment and synthetic resin and suspended in space, are a poetic evocation of driving rain, bringing the outside world inside. Some of the Planetary Reliefs were made by making casts of terrestrial maps (Région de Grenoble, Europe-Afrique), while other recall the surface of the Moon or of Mars. The Blue Planetary Relief (RP 23) is a hollow metal ball painted blue and floating in space. With his Blue Revolution, Klein appropriated the world by repainting Earth and levitating in space, thereby measuring himself against the immaterial. Having abandoned the painted canvas, the metaphysics or psychological alchemy of his work progressed towards a veritable theatricalization of the invisible. Invisibility and presence were no longer irreconcilable.
- Riccardo Venturi From the book 'Suspension', by Matthieu Poirier, published by Olivier Malingue Ltd and Skira, Paris, 2018. Book available to purchase from the gallery for £35.
Yves Klein Estate
Exh. cat, Yves Klein at Blenheim Palace, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, United Kingdom, 18 July - 7 October 2018 (Another edition n. exhibited)
London, Olivier Malingue, Suspension – A History of Abstract Hanging Sculpture 1918–2018, 1 October - 15 December 2018, pp. 33, 34, 119, reproduced in colour p. 120.