Yves Klein, The Man Who Invented a Color
By creating Klein Blue, this artist gave shape to a gesture born from love, colors and their intuitive quality.
At first there is nothing, then there is a profound nothingness, after that a blue profundity.
— Yves Klein
If the names of rare colors are already a garden of delights in their own right, the invention of a new color is altogether fascinating. And that is that, of all the things a person can “invent”, a color is an element in itself, and as such is at the disposition of whoever wants to use it. Additionally, creating a color is an act that does not lack a pretension of divine proportions.
This is what the French artist Yves Klein did; he not only “invented” a color but it was a hue of blue (perhaps the most evocative color in our palette) and registered it under the name International Klein Blue (IKB), known simply as Klein Blue.
The son of two painters, lover of magic and obsessed with the powers of color, Yves Klein (1928-1962) was one of the most provocative French artists of the post-war period and a crucial figure in the development of conceptual art. And although he died at the young age of 34, his constant and multiple experiments with polymers led him to discover a hue.
It was in 1956, during his holidays in Nice, when Klein began to experiment with a polymer to preserve the luminescence and the texture of an ultramarine blue pigment. A year later, the artist had his first exhibition of monochrome blues; a successful event that would mark what Klein called his “Blue Revolution”. This trend would later spread to the creation of balloons, sponges and statues of the same hue. Shortly afterwards, in May 1960, Klein registered his color with the help of a group of chemists from the Rhône Poulenc French Pharmaceutical Company.
The importance of Klein’s work lies in his pursuit of meaning through the purity of a color and in the way it can trigger a spiritual experience. To him, color is an abstract element that transmits ideas and concrete feelings.
As a man with a profound Catholic faith but also with hints of Zen Buddhism (he spent a year in Japan), Klein repositioned the color blue —at other times he used golden and pink— as a symbol of eternity and the divine in Christian iconography.
Klein Blue —vibrant, tonic, profound— is not just a color, it is also a symbol of void and vastness, an expression of the realm of the immaterial, and his creation constitutes a radical gesture born from the love of colors and their intuitive quality.
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