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Relief éponge (RE 46)

  • 1960
  • Yves Klein
  • Pigment, synthetic resin, natural sponges and pebble on panel
  • 145 x 115 cm

Sponge plays a recurring role. He applied colour to the base material using impregnation, to avoid brush marks. The uneven surface pitted with dark cavities accentuates the intensity of the colour. In 1958, Klein said: “Thanks to the wild living material of sponges, I was going to be able to make portraits of viewers of my monochromes, who, after having seen them, after having travelled through the blue of my paintings, come back totally impregnated in sensibility, like sponges.” Sponge was the painter's tool, and became his material: “While working on my paintings in the studio, I sometimes used sponges. Very quickly they obviously became blue! One day I noticed the beauty of the blue in the sponge; in an instant this working instrument became raw material for me. It is the sponge’s extraordinary capacity to impregnate itself with anything fluid that attracted me.”

© Succession Yves Klein c/o Adagp, Paris, 2018. Photo © Fondation Louis Vuitton / Marc Domage

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Yves Klein

Yves Klein was driven by a quest for the immaterial and totally disrupted the relationship between painting and the body, space and colour. A particularly intense ultramarine blue, which Klein named IKB (International Klein Blue) became a hallmark of his work.

Born into a family of painters, Klein developed an extensive body of work in the space of a few years, while practising judo and researching the cosmogony of the Rosicrucians. His first show in 1955 featured monochrome canvases in different colours. In 1957, Klein established the key elements of his artistic vocabulary, with monochrome, air, fire and water playing a central role, and presented 11 monochromes in Milan. The following year, his exhibition Le Vide (“The Void”) at the Iris Clert Gallery demonstrated his conception of art as a “pictorial sensibility”, in which he promoted the dematerialisation of the work. Although he was associated with the manifesto of Pierre Restany’s Nouveau Réalisme group (1960), he worked independently. His spatial preoccupations are embodied in the Anthropométries of his blue era, when he used female models as living brushes during performances.

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