What Do Blank Paintings Mean, Starting With Yves Klein

September 17, 2014 12:40 AM

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What Do Blank Paintings Mean, Starting With Yves Klein

In museums every day people come into contact with blank, empty paintings. There's seemingly nothing to be seen in or on them except for one color (or white or black) and some texture, maybe. French artist Yves Klein's 1950s series of vivid blue paintings could be the most memorable. Painted in a powdery ultramarine--which Klein patented as "International Klein Blue"--these canvases seem to hover against the wall. Part of this is the intensity of the blue but it's also due to Klein's subtle manipulations of his canvases. He extended them with wood, which he filed down, creating a gradual recession of the canvas towards the wall. He also rounded his paintings' corners, which also helped blur the edges of the canvas and the division between wall and canvas.

How did Klein come to make this series of paintings and what do they mean? No one is altogether certain but there are various possible influences, some of them much more straightforward than others. First off, when Klein started painting seriously in the late 1940s, he became increasingly interested...

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