22 October 2005

From Exhibit to Museum

Yves Klein is a pretty well known Modern artist even though his professional career lasted only 8 years. Of all the innovative things he did in that short time (fire painting, marketing thin air, employing people as paintbrushes) he is best known for color: specifically International Klein Blue, his own patented trademark color.

In the late 1950s and ealry 1960s, Klein made the following sculpture.

Well, he made this sculpture along with flocks and herds like it. What you are looking at is a seasponge, suspended on an iron wire atop a rock. The sponge, of course, has been marked with Klein's famous IKB. These little sculptures appeared in Klein's exhibits alongside his other work. According to Nancy Spector, "the sponge sculptures—all essentially alike, yet ultimately all different—formed a forest of discrete objects surrounding the gallery visitors."

This piece is about a meter high, and it makes a difference that it was not displayed on a pedestal, that it did not stand alone. Amid so many of it's fellows, this sculpture created an environment in the gallery, perhaps an early form of installation art.

Here, and probably in the Guggenhiem as well, the sponge is alone. To get a good look at it and to prevent gallery goers from trodding on it, it would be best to put it up a bit higher than one meter. But doing that (exhibiting it alone and out of context) changes a lot about what Klein wanted this sponge to do.

I don't have a problem with that. Art is shown out of context and out of character all the time. In fact, reproducing the Artist's intended environment isn't always possible or desirable. For the viewer, the challenge is to recognize this and keep open the possibility of a very different approach to each work.


Jonas said...

It looks very crafty to me. Unlinke a lot of crafts it has no purpose. Like most crafts it is ugly.

Matthew said...

From a technical perspective, I'm curious as to how he got his flavor of blue to take on so many different surfaces.

Jonas said...

Gesso or primer would be my guess.

Mary Ann said...

From the Grove Dictionary of Art "The new stage in Klein’s career was inaugurated in 1956 by his discovery, through experiments undertaken with the chemist Adam, of a suitable binding material of ether and petroleum extracts that could retain the intense brilliancy and haptic presence of the dusty, granular colour pigment. Klein concentrated the experiments on his favourite colour, blue, calling the new substance IKB (International Klein Blue)."

Yves Klien, part 2:Later work, 1956–62.