The Anthropométries embody the confluence of several different ideas for Klein. Radically merging aspects of painting with conceptual and performance art, these often startlingly dynamic works were created as a part of Klein’s fêted happenings, in which he presided, dressed in immaculate white tie and gloves, over nude female models as they covered themselves in his specially concocted International Klein Blue (IKB) paint and, following his precise instructions, dragged each other across the floor and imprinted themselves in particular poses against a huge wall-mounted canvas. Klein relished the precise orchestration of the event and the juxtapositions that flourished in its execution: the serene propriety and spotless attire of his invited guests contrasted drastically with the naked, paint-soaked performers. The resulting series of works exist as residual marks of these performances; bearing physical traces of the models’ animated actions, they symbolize the body as a material and spiritual center of energy and its inherent power.
Klein’s inspiration for these works came from his interest in the presence of absence, or the invisible, inexorable energy he felt existed unseen within the anatomical core. "It was the block of the body itself," Klein said at the time, "that is to say the trunk and part of the thighs that fascinated me. The hands, the arms, the head, the legs were of no importance. Only the body is alive, all-powerful and non-thinking. The head, the arms, the hands are only intellectual articulations around the bulk of flesh that is the body… True, the whole body is made of flesh, but the essential mass is the trunk and the thighs. It is there that we find the real universe, hidden by the universe of our limited perception." (the artist in Overcoming the Problematics of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Putnam, Connecticut, 2007, p. 186) Thus, in the present work, the torso is thrust dramatically into focus, filling the space of the canvas so completely that its vitality threatens to break free from the confines of its frame.
At a time when Abstract Expressionism and Tachisme reigned supreme, Klein marked a daring reintroduction of the human figure with his Anthropométries. Contrary to those artistic movements based on the fetishism of an individual artist’s personal and emotive gesture, Klein chose an opposite approach, completely removing his own hand from the creation of a painting through the use of his "human brushes." Moreover, by imprinting the human body directly upon the canvas, he created the ultimate figurative work, as subject, medium, and application became one and the same. In these paintings, Klein appropriates the trope of the nude – that subject which for centuries had been treated with idealized sensuality – splashes it with blue pigment and pushes it up against the picture plane with brazen immediacy and radical intimacy. Defying a historical convention in which the nude had offered a test of painterly skill and draftsmanship, Klein here achieves it without lifting a finger. Maverick that he was, Klein deliberately references tradition only to challenge it, twist it, and reintroduce it as uniquely his own.
In keeping with the best of Klein’s oeuvre, Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 163) is sublime in its aesthetic, charged with intellectual significance, and rich in art-historical content. Inimitably capturing the physical traces of movement and the energy of life itself in this intensely blue imprint, Klein here encapsulates his desire to channel the essence of life and universe through art. Through its conceptual and performative genesis, Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 163) connects a real, living moment of the flesh to the spiritual universe. The mark of a moment is eternally emblazoned in vivid blue, evoking and commemorating the full scope of Klein’s bold and magical vision.
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