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Expressing absolute immateriality and infinite space through pure color, the French artist, Yves Klein, is remembered as one of the most important avant-garde artists and an early pioneer of conceptual and performance art.
Best known for his own invented color, International Klein Blue (IKB), the conceptual artist was born on April 28, 1928, in Nice, France, with two parents as painters. Between 1942 and 1946, Klein studied at the Ecole Nationale de la Marine Marchand and the Ecole Nationale des Langues. During this time, he became close friend with a young poet, Cloude Pascal, and a Promising sculptor, Arman Fernandez.
In 1946, lying on a beach with friends Klein had an epiphany and he “claimed” the sky, which he identified as the perfect representation of the formless and infinite. For the rest of his life, Klein would devote himself to depict that mystical experience through his art.
In the late 1940s, Klein began to seek ways to communicate his vision. He created a musical piece, “Monotone-Silence Symphony” (1947-48), which meant to evoke the sky through the steady playing of a single chord for 20 minutes, followed by an equally long period silence intended for reflection.
From 1949 to 1952, Klein worked in frame shop in London and gained a solid foundation in painting and the fundamentals of colors. Pershing an ongoing interest in judo, he moved to Japan in 1952 and became a fourth-dan black belt at the Kodokan Institute. While there he also held a solo exhibition of his work and wrote the “Manifesto of the Monochrome”, which described his work as the liberation of emotion from the restrains of life and object.
In the 1950s, Klein began creating his monochrome series by developing and patenting his own signature hue known as IKB or International Klein Blue. He launched his Blue Period in 1957 with his “Aerostatic Sculpture”, releasing 1,001 blue balloons in Paris, and followed with exhibits of his paintings in Paris, London and Milan.
Among his other important works from this period was “The Void”, in which he presented the emptied-out Irish Clert Gallery, which he painted completely white, and created an intricate entrance ritual for the opening night.
Further experimenting with new approaches to express his vision, Klein created some of his most memorable works including nude models acting as “living brushes” to plaint the canvas with his blue pigment in his “Anthropométries Series”, which debuted in a live performance piece at the Gallery of Contemporary Art in Paris in 1960.
Klein also began working with a large torch to burn the surfaces of his canvases and creat a series of “Fire Paintings”, and with gold leaf to complete numerous “Monogolds”. Klein also founded the New Realism movement with the art critic Pierre Restany in his Parisian apartment in 1960. His blend of early conceptual and performance art contrasted with the Expressionism and early Pop sensibilities of international artists' practices now.
The artist’s brief but prolific life ended with his untimely death from a heart attack at the age of 34 on June 6, 1962, in Paris. Since his death, Klein’s work has been featured in countless exhibits around the world, and in 2012, one of his sponge painting set a record for postwar French art when it was auctioned for nearly 37 million dollars.