In a recent episode of the Radiotopia podcast This is Love, Phoebe Judge explains that Yves Klein saw the history of art as a war between line and colour, and so far, line had been winning the battle.
“I am against the line and all its consequences: contours, forms, composition,” said Klein. “All paintings of whatever sort, figurative or abstract, seem to me like prison windows in which the lines, precisely are the bars.”
The colour that captured Klein is that same colour that has captured the world: blue. I’ve written about blue before, quoting Rebecca Solnit and her discussion of blue as the colour of longing and desire. But this episode of Love provides a much richer account of the love affair that humans have with the colour blue – a love affair that can be tied, in part, to Yves Klein.
Klein was fascinated by the colour, but grew frustrated when mixing the paint. After pinpointing the right pigment powder, he found that mixing it with the binder ruined it’s hue and turned the colour dark and dull. “The magic of the colour vanished.” he wrote.
He then met a colour maker in Paris famous for mixing paints for Picasso, and the two worked with chemists to develop a new kind of binding agent. They found a solvent that when mixed with the powder, kept maintained the light and brilliance of the pigment. The result was something that didn’t look like paint – according to Klein, it was alive with energy. He named the colour IKB (Yves Klein Blue).
Below are 10 of Klein’s most important works, all using the vibrant and electric IKB.