Galerie Beaubourg, Paris
Christie’s, London, Contemporary Art, 25 March 1993, Lot 64
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Palma, Es Baluard Museu d’Art Modern i Contemporani de Palma, on extended loan, 2004-14
Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottman, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves, Connecticut 2007, p. 197.
Untitled Fire Painting (F 118) is a superlative example of Yves Klein’s revolutionary Fire Paintings which are widely regarded as the supreme synthesis of the artist’s philosophical worldview. Experimenting with different natural elements, Klein had found a material in fire that was simultaneously immaterial. As posited by the influential critic Pierre Restany: “The trilogy of the fundamental colours blue, gold, and pink find its logical synthesis in the flame of fire” (Pierre Restany, Fire at the Heart of the Void, Connecticut 2005, p. 1). Created in 1961 with an industrial blowtorch, the present work depicts the artist’s iconic structure of spill traces; inscribed in meandering tendrils and stalactites the present work delivers a painterly dialogue forged in fire.
Untitled Fire Painting (F 118) was first gifted by the artist to his friend, the lauded architect Claude Parent. Starting in 1959 Parent worked on professional designs for Klein's air architecture concepts, ambitious artistic installations that were centred on the relationship between water and fire. Shortly after the artist's tragic death at the age of 34, his widow, Rotraut Klein-Moquay, and his mother, Marie Raymond, asked Parent to create an architectural design for an Yves Klein memorial, to be built on a small plot of land above Saint-Paul de Vence in South-Eastern France. Untitled Fire Painting (F 118) therefore represents the long-lasting friendship between Klein and Parent, and proclaims the artist’s intellectual legacy: “My paintings are only the ashes of my art” (Yves Klein, trans. Klaus Ottmann, Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves, New York 2007, p. 143).
In 1957, Klein realised the apotheosis of his blue period through a double event in the Parisian galleries Iris Clert and Colette Allendy. Clert’s gallery displayed a series of monochrome paintings and an aerostatic sculpture (the release of 1001 blue balloons into the sky over Saint-Germain-des-Près): together these elements imparted a truly panoramic sampling of Klein’s ‘world in blue’. It was two anticipatory installations of the void/fire dialectic at Allendy’s however – an empty room and a Fire Painting – that constituted the core of the two shows. The first Fire Painting ever exhibited was installed in Allendy’s garden; this piece consisted of a plywood panel, upon which 16 rockets were arranged in rows of four and directed obliquely to the sky. Blinded by the intense blue of the flames, Klein was fascinated by the alchemical potential of fire, which he later described as the "ultra-living element" (Yves Klein quoted in: Pierre Restany, Fire at the Heart of the Void, Connecticut 2005, p. 3). The empty room furthermore presented the ‘immaterial’; as Restany recalls: “A gallery room on the first floor is entirely empty and Yves invites me to remain there alone with him in silence so as to witness the ‘presence of pictorial sensibility reduced to raw matter’ ... Thus fire rejoined with the void through an ethereal and tangible, material/immaterial synthesis” (Ibid., p. 4). Representing the culmination of the ideas presented in these breakthrough shows, the Fire Paintings embody the core philosophy and crown Yves Klein’s radical contribution to twentieth-century art history.
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