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I've Got the Yves Klein Blues

This December I’ve been feeling blue—International Klein Blue, that is. A group of spectacular works by French artist Yves Klein recently went on view in the Modern Wing, and they keep drawing me back for more.

Klein’s signature is his International Klein Blue—a particularly rich blue color that owes its depth to the use of pure pigment. To Klein, IKB implied infinite space and harkened back to the days—beginning in the twelfth century—when blue became a color in the pantheon of sacred colors and began to be used for the color of Mary’s cloak. Standing in the gallery, the deep blue hue of IKB has a magnetic glow—almost like the works are generating light themselves.

In Untitled Blue Sponge Relief (RE 40), Klein attached IKB-soaked sponges directly to the canvas, creating a sort of painting/sculpture hybrid. We are fortunate to have two works on display that showcase Klein’s living paintbrushes. One of them, The Three Graces Anthropometry (Ant 62), references the same classical motif—the three graces—as our current exhibition of found photographs. (The connections between works in this museum never cease to amaze me.) Another two works in the gallery explore Klein’s efforts to make elusive phenomena visible: Untitled Cosmogony (COS 11) captures the interaction of rain and pigment and Untitled Fire Painting (F2) is patterned with soot created where Klein burned the canvas.

Maybe it’s the color, the large scale of the canvases, the soothing lighting, or the intimate gallery space, but this winter I’m fully embracing the blues all thanks to Yves Klein.