Sunday, 31 March 2013

On Yves Klein

Here, for Easter Sunday, a favourite image by a favourite artist. Look it up on Google.

It's called Le Saut dans le vide (Leap into the Void) and is (of course) a brilliantly simple photomontage, by Shunk Kender, made in 1960, capturing the artist Yves Klein in mid-air one damp afternoon in October 1960. The location was Rue Gentil-Bernard in Fontenay-aux-Roses, a quiet suburb south of Paris. I like the earthbound cyclist on the right, entirely unaware of the Icarus moment taking place behind him. He would have seen the four assistants holding a tarpaulin sheet to capture the falling man, who have been airbrushed out of the final image.

I visited the place one correspondingly damp Easter Sunday afternoon about twenty years ago. Nothing much remains of the site, which is now occupied by an ugly modern church and a student hall of residence, although the railway line still runs along the end of the street and the station building remains intact. Oddly enough an identically-banded brick pillar to the one Klein is leaping from can be found still in place in the same street, about a quarter of a mile south. The place where he would theoretically have crashed to earth is now a zebra crossing, but (unlike the one in London's Abbey Road) not a world-class tourist attraction.

Klein included the image in his book Dimanche, apparently to prove that he had mastered the art of lunar travel and a snub to the boys at NASA. If serious conceptual art is your bag then Klein's the man.

He died young, aged 34, in 1962. He was a terrific innovator - as a painter, performance artist, provocateur and karate champion. The real deal.

Images © The Estate of Yves Klein

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