Friday, July 9, 2010

Yves Klein hated birds (yet imitated one convincingly in Leap into the Void)

Yesterday while sitting in the White House Cafe in New Harmony, IN where I went to pick up my artwork, I read Peter Schjeldahl's review on the Yves Klein retrospective currently on display at the Hirshhorn Museum. Klein has fascinated me since I saw another of his retrospectives at the Reina Sofia in Madrid in 1995. My Spanish was minimal and I didn't understand most of the text alongside the artworks so I came home and researched him extensively. I can't say I love his work but I do like his concepts - inventing International Klein Blue (IKB), serving blue cocktails at an opening that turned everyone's urine blue, convincing the post office to take one of his IKB stamps as an official way to send his announcements, using fire as a mode of making art, and the fine art of photo collage with his Leap into the Void.

Klein's Blue Monochrome, 1960

Schjeldahl writes: "He hated birds, he said, 'because they tried to bore holes in my greatest and most beautiful work.'" That work being the sky... and to claim it as his own is one of the most egotistical statements I have read in a very long time. I keep thinking about the bird as interruption and can't help but feel that Klein missed the point.

Once when viewing James Turrell's sky space at the Live Oak Meeting House in Houston, TX, I saw an airplane and it's trail mark the perfect blue. I have never forgotten my friend Kelli's description of watching a balloon float by one evening while staring into the void. Those are the moments that make that artwork memorable when an entity that shouldn't be there momentarily makes an entrance.

I think John Baldessari, whose retrospective is currently on display on the West Coast, would agree.

John Baldessari's Bird, Airplane, Bird

The opposite effect can also occur when the sky is obliterated by the birds as seen in Lukas Felzmann's photographs.

I've always loved this image and for a very long time, it was my desktop wallpaper on my laptop. Then one day my hard drive crashed and I lost the name of the person who made it. It's title currently exists as "0019E95D.JPG" so if anyone ever sees it and can give me the full documentation, I would be grateful to give credit where it is due. This sky interruption reminded me of Kelli's visit to Turrell's piece yet also of another beautiful ending...

to the Truman Show. Both these images show the moments where truth becomes a facade. The balloon's shadow gives it away and Truman on his quest to sail into the horizon, ultimately ran into it with his sailboat. I would never claim the sky as my own creation or sign it as Klein did at the age of 19. I am far more interested in those "holes" that Klein despised.

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