Yves Klein Blue

Posted by Wolfgang Somary on November 13, 2011
Essays

Ives Klein Blue (IKB), patented and thumbprinted by the artist, is somewhat different from God’s unpatented delphinium, gentian or sapphire blues, to name but a few. A canvas that’s covered with certified IKBlue once sold at Sotheby’s for $6,800,000 and if I wanted to understand Why, I would have to ask that woman who sat in cross-legged meditation before a similar one of his works as I walked through the halls of Tate Modern, trying rather unsuccessfully to comprehend the spirit of the times. The cross-legged woman interested me more than Klein’s painting, just as two portly Senegalese ladies who rocked with laughter interested me more than the surrealistic painting that was their source of merriment and just as that enamored students-of-art couple that spread study sheets all over the floor of the nudes room, while studying paintings of bodies inferior to theirs, meant more to me than the paintings. Those viewers were all part of the picture and my memory became indented with the viewers’ living reactions to what they saw.

Did the cross-legged woman find more serenity in IKB than I have in the clear sky of my native Arosa above snowy landscapes? Or was she mindful of a happening in that magical year 1961, when the artist delighted a select Paris audience by gently conducting the bodies of beautiful nude modes in a lithesome supple choreography, applying with their backs and posteriors IKB to spread canvasses while a trio of violin, cello and piano played classical music? Or did someone tell her, and she therefore believed, that this was the greatest painter of the 20th Century, as I have been told by a renowned French astrologer whose opinions on other matters I prize? Or was she intrigued by a painting that evoked what in Buddhism is called Sunyata (No Thing)? Or did she read in the painting a statement such as “I am that I am”, anouncing the dawn ot the Me-Generation? Or did she glorify in the apotheosis of promoted trademark mandalas for the many, such as patented bluejeans — those perennial leggings-for-all, just as Warhol’s icon of Campbell’s Bean Soup of 1961 or as Josef Beuys’s unmistakably tailored grey felt suit in Harvard’s Fogg Museum? Or did that specific hue of blue spark in her neurons a feeling of transcendental wellbeing superior to that which my soulmate and I experience when lying belly down on an Alpine meadow to contemplate the chalice of a gentian?

I shall know the answer as little as I may find answers to the question: why have I often engaged in battles that were lost from their very beginning. We prize ourselves as rational creatures while seeking adventure in which we can forfeit our lives like Yves Klein with the toxic fumes of his patented cobalt blue. If we land standing, we owe our fortune to what the proud call our lucky stars and the humble call grace.

When thinking of color blue, my first mental association tunes into a dream in which blue was seen in varying and intermingly shades.

Blue intermingled with blue —
space for widening breath:
heaven’s flooded in sapphire,
undulating in ultramarine —
a flow of azure pulsates
beneath angels’ feet.
There's more commotion
within this translucent sphere
than on our petrified plaster.
I see angels peer through our densities,
their curious compassionate eyes
bemused by us who see air.
Here's pulsation of time —
a leavening of souls
in hilarity’s yeast.
Leave your luggage in Eden
for others to hump:
unravelled in Elohim's breath,
dance in rhythmical aeons
dilations of blue
wildly beyond your threshhold
of earthly containment —
unfolding in dance eternal, your hair
blown by a whistling seraph.

This dream culminated in a ray of hope. It has formed its embodiment in my memory, which I can share only by giving of myself under its impact, as that being  that I have become by virtue of the dream, just as that strange cross-legged woman, with her eyes shut in meditation, will long continue reminding me of a riddle that may have been given her to solve. Hers was the lot to contemplate a statement, mine the lot to contemplate the witness. – 2011 Wolfgang Somary

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