Exh. Cat., Houston, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Yves Klein 1928-1962: A Retrospective, 1982, p. 14.
Executed only one year before his death, Monogold Sans Titre (MG 44) stands as a striking and profound paradigm of Yves Klein’s spectacular series of Monogolds which articulate the artist’s life-long preoccupation with the transcendental medium of gold. The artist himself asserted, “Gold was really something. Those leaves literally fluttered in the slightest draught on the padded dish you had to hold in one hand while catching them in flight with the knife in the other…What a material! What a marvellous lesson in respect for pictorial material!” (Yves Klein, ‘L’aventure monochrome’, in: Yves Klein, Le dépassement de la problématique de l’art et autres écrits, Paris 2003, p. 246). Klein’s admiration and adoration for the medium of gold is indisputable in the present composition, where small strips of gold leaf as light as petals demonstrate the inherent fragility and philosophical aura of this exquisite natural material.
The works of the Monogold series were executed between 1959 and 1961 while Klein was living in Paris, and they form an instrumental part of the artist’s wider oeuvre. Indeed, the seminal works of this series offer a particularly crucial parallel to Klein’s outstanding monochromes in ‘International Klein Blue’, the artist’s signature, patented hue. Together the Monogolds and the Monochromes offer a physical form of painting that enabled the artist to visually manifest the absolute, thus exemplifying Klein’s answer to European abstraction and conceptualism in the fifties and sixties. As a synthesis of modernism and post-modernism, Klein’s work fundamentally engages with non-representational art, opening limitless possibilities of space and meaning through an ardent restriction of colour. Pierre Restany, art critic and dear friend of Klein, powerfully wrote, “It is through pure colour that Yves Klein materialized his sensory intuitions and activated a mechanism of extra-lucid perception, a totally affective psychosensory language that cannot be tested or verified by rational processes. Like destiny, colour is a reality in itself: it fixes the image of the world through the creative consciousness of it” (Pierre Restany, ‘Who is Yves Klein’, in: op. sit., p. 14). Strikingly, Monogold Sans Titre (MG 44) is dedicated to Restany’s wife Jeannine Restany, for hand-written words on the back of the panel significantly read “Pour Jeannine avec la vraie amitié de Yves – Paris 1961”. As such, the provenance of the present work is remarkable in its reference to Klein’s sincere friendship with the Parisian critic and his wife.
The vibrant gold leaves of Monogold Sans Titre (MG 44) flutter delicately on the panel’s surface, recalling the breath-taking kineticism of gold leaves in Klein’s celebrated performance along the Seine, Transfer of a Zone of Immaterial Pictorial Sensibility. In this revered performance, Klein ingeniously conceptualised the role of artist and artwork, and captured eternal beauty through the arresting formal elements of gold, air and water. In this performative work and most particularly in Monogold Sans Titre (MG 44), the physical matter of gold attracted the artist as both material and colour were uniquely one and the same. Thus for Klein gold was automatically imbued with an intrinsic sense of significance and a deeply philosophical value. As described by curator Kynaston McShine, “the ephemeral and precious qualities of gold leaf intrigued Klein and his early Monogolds were resplendent objects…squares of gold leaf attached to the whole surface fluttered at the slightest movement and were dazzling and hypnotic. Here was gold, demonstrating an impermanent and evanescent beauty that was compelling and eventually to be part of the ‘immaterial’” (Kynaston McShine cited in: Exh. Cat., New York, the Jewish Museum, Yves Klein, 1967, p. 8).
The last years of Klein’s life were enormously productive, and the sublime Monogolds “symbolically completed nature’s Great Work of perfecting matter” (Thomas McEvilley, ‘Yves Klein: Conquistador of the Void’, in: op. cit., p. 69). The ethereal dance of gold on the surface of the present work provides the viewer with a transcendental and exponential experience of infinity, and here the earthly matter of gold becomes the vehicle by which Klein achieves his symbolic, energetic and spiritual tableaux. On the vibrant, shimmering surface of Monogold Sans Titre (MG 44) gold signifies life, freshness and vitality, as well as the artist’s astounding mastery in his craft. The present work ultimately embodies Yves Klein’s bold and enigmatic aesthetic language, for its delicate subtlety is unquestionably in keeping with this artist’s most lauded works.
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