1 Thomas McEvilley, “Yves Klein: Conquistador of the Void,” in Yves Klein, 1928-1962, Houston, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, 1982, p. 28, tells the story of how Klein and his friends Claude Pascal and Armand Fernandez (later known as the artist Arman) were reclining on the beach in Nice, and decided to divide the universe among themselves, as the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades had done: “Arman . . . took charge of the animal realm . . . Claude gathered to himself the safety of all plants. And Yves . . . defined his realm, the mineral, as the blue emptiness of the distant sky.”
2 Yves Klein, “The Monochrome Adventure” (1958), in Gilbert Perlein and Bruno Cora, eds., Yves Klein: Long Live the Immaterial!, Nice, Musée d’art moderne and d’art contemporaine, and New York, Delano Greenidge Editions, 2000, p. 77.
3 Klein’s megalomania is evident in his 1958 letter to the American president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, requesting assistance in taking over the French government so he could effect a “Blue Revolution . . . aiming at the transformation of the French People’s thinking.” Klein’s letter is reproduced in Sidra Stich, Yves Klein, London, Hayward Gallery, and Stuttgart, Cantz Verlag, 1994, p. 144. Stich’s catalogue is one of four key texts on Klein, along with essays by Thomas McEvilley and Nan Rosenthal in Yves Klein, 1928-1962, and Pierre Restany, Yves Klein, le monochrome, Paris, Hachette, 1974 (English translation Yves Klein, trans. John Shipley, New York, H.N. Abrams, 1982).
4 See interviews with the engineer Roger Tallon and the architect Werner Ruhnau, in Peter Noever and François Perrin, Yves Klein: Air Architecture, Los Angeles, MAK Center for Art and Architecture, 2004, pp. 104-06.
5 “Yves Klein: La vie, la vie elle-même qui est l’art absolu,” Nice, Musée d’art moderne et d’art contemporaine, 2000; “Yves Klein,” Frankfurt, Schirn Kunsthalle, 2004; “Yves Klein: Corps, couleur, immaterial,” Paris, Centre Pompidou, 2006; “Yves Klein,” Lugano, Museo d’Arte, 2009. “Yves Klein: Air Architecture,” Los Angeles, MAK Center for Art and Architecture, 2004, focused on Klein’s visionary ideas about architecture. Klein also played an important role in two recent thematic exhibitions: On the Sublime: Mark Rothko, Yves Klein, James Turrell, Berlin, Deutsche Guggenheim, 2001, and Colour after Klein: Rethinking Colour in Modern and Contemporary Art, London, Barbican Center, 2005.
6 Stich, pp. 54, 59-60.
7 McEvilley, p. 36 and note 44.
8 See Klein’s account of the invitations to “The Void” in Stich, pp. 133-34.
9 Nan Rosenthal, “Assisted Levitation: The Art of Yves Klein,” in Yves Klein, 1928-1962, p. 111, notes that the sponge sculptures Klein began making in 1957 are in effect monochrome versions of the sponge figures that Dubuffet exhibited in 1954.
10 Rosenthal, p. 104; further details are given in Stich, pp. 59-60.
11 See Brian O’Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, San Francisco, Lapis Press, 1986, which reprints his three famous essays, originally published in Artforum in 1976.
12 See the extended description and analysis of “The Void” in Stich, pp. 133-43.
13 McEvilley, pp. 26 and 46.
14 On Klein and Bachelard, see McEvilley, pp. 50-52; Rosenthal, pp. 113-14; and Stich, pp. 77-78, and notes 89, 90.
15 Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, Thought-Forms (1901), New York, John Lane, 1905, pp. 33-34.
Max Heindel studied with Leadbeater in Los Angeles. Kandinsky also seems to have been influenced by
“Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers,” curated by Kerry Brougher and Philippe Vergne, is on view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., May 20-Sept. 12. Co-organized by the Hirshhorn and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, where it will travel [Oct. 23, 2010-Feb. 13, 2011], the exhibition is accompanied by a 352-page catalogue by Brougher and Vergne.
PEPE KARMEL is chair of the art history department at New York University. He is working on a book on the history of abstraction from 1910 through 2010.