Günther Uecker, Dusseldorf
Galerie Gmurzynska, Zug
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2002
"My models were my brushes. I made them smear themselves with colour and imprint themselves on canvas."
Yves Klein, 'Le Vrai Devient Réalité', cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Yves Klein: Leap into the Void, 1995, p. 171
Articulated in a remarkable accented schema of IKB impressions, ANT 135 is a commanding example from Yves Klein's groundbreaking corpus of Anthropométries. Executed in 1961, the present work stands as an abstract sublimation of Klein's iconic exploration of the human form; the energetic staccato of anthropomorphic imprints exudes a height of theatricality and paroxysmal movement that masterfully complicates any distinction between abstraction and figuration. Indeed, the spectacular ANT 135 stands apart from the body of work that precedes it. Representing a culmination of numerous and varied thematic strands of Yves Klein's conceptually innovative and materially revolutionary oeuvre, ANT 135 arrestingly bears witness the marriage of spiritual notions of immateriality with the heady and sensual world of the corporeal.
An outstanding example from this now infamous series, ANT 135 enshrines in an image that which is simultaneously abstract and figurative, concrete and immaterial: the themes that underpinned one of the most important events in the evolution of conceptual art. On the 9th March 1960 at the Galerie d'Art Contemporain in the Rue Saint-Honoré in Paris, Yves Klein presided over a now legendary one night action spectacle in which the artist breathed new life into the avant-garde and introduced an entirely new art form: the Anthropométries. In front of a select crowd of critics and gallery patrons, the artist - immaculately dressed in a tuxedo and adorned with the Maltese Cross of his Saint Sebastian brotherhood - orchestrated his pigment-smeared models to create static imprints and dynamic movement paintings against a paper-lined environment. Conducted with ritual and formality, the occasion had a conspicuous air of theatricality entirely consonant with Klein's assiduous promotion of his art and the Blue Revolution. In the background, three violinists, three cellists and three choristers played the droning Monotone Symphony, twenty minutes of imperturbable one-note music followed by twenty minutes of silence. Minimal and austere, the Monotone Symphony bore witness to the promotion of the role of chance and silence in the musical 'Happenings' of John Cage, while the performance itself elevated the painting process to a grand theatrical idea that dramatically presages the evolution of performance art in the latter half of the Twentieth century.
While life drawing was not a function of Klein's creative process, he had developed the practice of having nude models in his work space since he felt that the sensual climate that they engendered helped stabilise his Monochromes. "The shape of the body, its curves, its colours between life and death, are not of interest to me. It is the pure affective atmosphere that is valuable" (Yves Klein, 'Le Vrai Devient Réalité', cited in: Exhibition Catalogue, London, Hayward Gallery, Yves Klein: Leap into the Void, 1995, p. 171). While Klein never used the models as direct figurative referents, they were fundamental to his creative process as he searched for a way of capturing their essence. This reached its pinnacle in the present series: "My models were my brushes. I made them smear themselves with colour and imprint themselves on canvas... But this was only the first step. I thereafter devised a sort of ballet of girls on a grand canvas which resembled the white mat of judo contests" (Ibid p. 172).
In the action orientated Anthropométries, Klein positioned himself as director, choreographing the model's every movement. The accrued dabs and residual traces in pigment serve as an arresting record of the physical and temporal journey of the artwork's creation. The essence of Klein's exercise was to capture the energy of the process, so although the marks were made by the body, none of its specific features are left clearly printed on the paper. ANT 135 is a vigorous record of a single model's movement in time. In the physical process of smearing pigment onto paper, the curves that define the female form blur into an elegant, balletic performance that coalesces to lyrically echo the iconic form of Henri Matisse's La Chevelure from 1952.
Klein's notion of models as 'living brushes' pinpoints his desire to eradicate the artist's hand from the creative process, and in so doing questions ideas of authenticity and authorship in art. Although stylistically referent to action painting, in ANT 135 Klein pointedly rejects the unrestrained gestural expression inherent to Abstract Expressionism in favour of a disciplined, premeditated, hands-off approach. The deep conceptual premise of the series is that flesh confers to the work the phenomenological presence of the body. Conceiving of the body as a force of creativity, a marking apparatus that is itself a sign and signifier of life, Klein transforms the human body - the erstwhile passive subject of traditional figurative art - into the agent of artistic creativity. In so doing, Klein positions himself as a catalyst in this creative act, set at a distance from the work itself. In ANT 135, Klein's ongoing investigation into authority, authenticity and originality is superlatively surmised.
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