- Yves Klein
- Accord Bleu (RE 52)
- signed, titled, dated 58 and inscribed Gelsenkirchen on the reverse
- dry pigment in synthetic resin, natural sponges and pebbles on board
- 20 1/2 x 53 3/4 x 3 in. 52 x 136.5 x 7.6 cm.
Mr. William K. Jacobs, Jr., 1960
The Brooklyn Museum, New York (bequest of the above, 1992)
Christie's, New York, November 14, 2012, Lot 60 (consigned by the above)
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Possessing unmatched harmonic balance and a refined degree of surface splendor emanating through its exhilaratingly variegated topography, Accord bleu embodies one of the earliest and most seductive examples from Yves Klein’s extraordinary corpus of Relief-éponges. Formerly in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum, Accord bleu was one of the few examples of the series to bear such an evocative title; the title of this spectacular work would be used again two years later for a sponge relief in the eminent collection of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. The powdery, velvet blue surface continually evolves according to the play of light across the spectacularly articulated surface. While the sponges and pebbles afford a beautiful compositional structure, their arrangement also reinforces the effect of the monochrome. Indeed, the sheer power of the IKB pigment unifies the whole work to such a degree that the exact landscape of the surface is not always discernible and the spellbinding blue intermittently overcomes silhouette and contour. The labyrinths of minute spaces within the sponges create multifaceted schemas of light and shadow and the extraordinary potency of Yves Klein’s blue seems to fill these void matrices with a coloristic energy independent of the physical forms. Thus while the bodies of the sponge loom towards us, the myriad recesses draw our world into the infinity of Yves Klein’s blue epoch.
On the reverse of the present work, Yves Klein inscribed the name Gelsenkirchen, the German city which holds exceptional significance for the artist’s career. It was there that Yves Klein completed his historic mural commission for the town’s opera house and theater. Having won the competitive commission with an initial proposal for two murals, Yves Klein was ultimately charged with painting six. Yves Klein arrived in Gelsenkirchen in October 1958 to begin the commission, a project through which the artist began developing his group of Reliefs-éponges in earnest. While initially intending to keep his sponges soft, Yves Klein inserted resin into them as a way to keep the surfaces solid across the large expanses of his installation, an innovative technique of suspending pigment in resin that opened the door for the creation of such resolved works as Accord bleu in the final months of 1958. This magnificently articulated marine phenomenon is truly exceptional for its spectacular scale and the intricacy of its sponge composition, signaling a critical advancement in the artist’s career during a particularly constructive period. Yves Klein’s unprecedented output has forever eluded ready categorization and this sublime sculptural relief, exceptionally rare and of incomparable quality, is the ultimate testament to an artist who was nothing less than visionary.
Yves Klein’s meteoric career was devoted to a relentless search for an immaterial world beyond our own. To this end he developed modes of expression that fused together a sweeping array of profoundly held interests in aesthetics, nature, and mysticism. Among these artistic dialects the Relief-éponges evince the effective manifestation of the complex mysteries that filled the artist’s life. Forging the kernel of Yves Klein’s epoch of immateriality, these unreal masterworks deliver the crescendo promised by the IKB, gold, and rose Monochromes; and bring to life the enigmatic shadows of the Anthropométries. While the Monochromes invite the viewer into Yves Klein’s world, this Relief-éponge advances out into the world of the viewer; whereas the Anthropométries narrate the trace of transient human presence, Accord bleu absorbs ancient creatures into the depths of its fathomless and immaterial blue. Although it may be indicative of some alien planetary landscape or the deepest ocean bed, the topography of Accord bleu encapsulates the artist’s pure concept of an ethereal and intangible state.
Having first observed the powerful chromatic effect of pure powdered pigment while in an art supply shop in London in 1949, through the 1950s Yves Klein experimented with various materials that he acquired from Edouard Adam, a chemicals and art supplies retailer in Montparnasse. From these trials he developed the legendary International Klein Blue, a medium which preserved the pigment as if it were still pure powder. It was also in Adam's shop where Yves Klein discovered sponges in 1956, sourced from Greece and Tunisia, which the artist first used to apply paint to his surface before being struck by the extraordinary aesthetic of soaking them in IKB. As aquatic animals, sponges have evolved over hundreds of millions of years into bodies of maximum surface area and exceptional absorption qualities in order to extract food and oxygen as efficiently as possible from the constant flow of water passing through them. As a living being the shape of a sponge changes, but extracted from its life-support of plankton-filled seawater it is frozen in its final, ultimate form. In the present work these outstanding features of natural selection are profusely drenched in Yves Klein’s blue, resulting in an organic architecture of immeasurable chromatic depth. From his earliest experiments with monochromes Yves Klein was gripped by sculptural possibilities: curved edges emphasized dimensions beyond the flat rectilinear canvas and in his first blue monochromes exhibitions the works were projected away from the hanging wall so as to be suspended in space. This exploration into the prospects of hanging sculpture finds its apogee in the Relief-éponge corpus where the three-dimensional elements project forward into the space of the viewer.
Yves Klein's artistic contribution to contemporary culture is most frequently described as visionary, and the scope of his artistic innovations was utterly without precedent. Before they were incorporated into Yves Klein’s exclusive inventory of materials, sponges were first used in the application of pigment for Yves Klein’s famous monochrome IKB paintings executed until 1962. In realizing its highly evocative potential for the purposes of his immaterial inquiry, Yves Klein began to work directly with the sponge as a simultaneously dynamic and symbolic compositional device: "While working on my paintings in my studio, I sometimes used sponges. Evidently, they very quickly turned blue! One day I perceived the beauty of blue in the sponge; this working tool all of a sudden became a primary medium for me. The sponge has that extraordinary capacity to absorb and become impregnated with whatever fluid, which was naturally very seductive to me. Thanks to the natural and living matter of sponges, I was able to make portraits of the readers of my monochromes, which, after having seen and traveled into the blue of my paintings, returned from them completely impregnated with sensibility, just as the sponges." (Yves Klein, "Notes on certain works exhibited at the Colette Allendy Gallery," in Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publications, New York, 2007, p. 40) With the Relief-éponge Yves Klein enlivened, ruptured and plasticized the surface of his monochrome canvases, and in so doing broke the confines of the two-dimensional picture plane. In the immeasurable aquamarine depths of Accord bleu, the viewer is thus treated to a stunning drama of palpable and spatial form within Yves Klein’s theatre of saturated color.