FRIEZE MASTERS 2015London
RP 2: GRENOBLE, 1961
Jörgen Törsleff Collection, Paris;
Sotheby’s, London, June 23 2004 lot 11.
P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, p. 137, no. RP2.
(Yuri Gagarin quoted in The Daily Mirror, 13 April 1961)
Executed in 1961 in his signature International Klein Blue pigment, Yves Klein’s Relief planétaire (RP2) is an outstanding sculptural painting, mirroring the topographical contours of Grenoble and its neighbourhoods. The painting is part of a discrete series of around 23 works that the artist conceived in the immediate aftermath of the historic first human journey into space undertaken by Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. The series captures the zeitgeist of the moment when Gagarin exclaimed to the world: ‘I saw the sky very dark and the earth blue, of a deep and intense blue’. In his Relief planétaires, Klein gives affirmation to this statement, presenting his awe-inspiring vision of earth seen from above.
Some of the Relief planétaires are titled according to the specific topographical landscapes they depict such as Europe - Africa (RP 11) or the present work –Grenoble is also the subject of RP 10- while others, like RP9 or RP 17 were left without descriptions even if they depict specifical places respectively the riverbeds of the Arly close to Albertville and Nice and Cap Ferrat.
From April through June 1961, Klein was in the United States for his show with Leo Castelli, and it was there that he learned of Gagarin’s triumph as the first human to journey into space and orbit the Earth in Vostok 1. When the newspapers printed Gagarin’s now legendary statement in April 1961, Klein crowed of this as scientific confirmation of his own belief espoused as early as 1957: ‘that the Earth was entirely blue!’.
The Relief planétaires are extensions of Klein’s signature monochromes, which form the cornerstone of the artist’s entire artistic output. The mysterious, textural expanse of pure radiating colour provides a highly physical manifestation of the inherent dialogue that Klein hoped to induce between the sensibility of the viewer and the vast monochromatic expanse of intense, but immaterial colour emanating from the surface of the work. Having settled on pure colour as the immaterial medium through which he hoped to ‘impregnate’ the viewer with this sense of the mystic, from all the colours, Klein selected blue to be the material vehicle through which to express the immaterial void. ‘Blue has no dimensions’, Klein explained, ‘All colors bring forth associations of concrete, material, and tangible ideas, while blue evokes all the more the sea and the sky, which are what is most abstract in tangible and visible nature’ (Y. Klein, ‘Speech to the Gelsenkirchen Theater Commission’, in Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Putnam 2007, p. 41).
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