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All About Yves: The Story of International Klein Blue | Departures
"What we talk about when we talk about “Yves Klein Blue,” the shocking hue of ultramarine created by Yves Klein.

In her collection Bluets, the poet and art critic Maggie Nelson writes about visiting London and seeing Propositions Monochromes, a collection of objects and canvases painted by Yves Klein in 1957. The only color used was a shade of ultramarine. Three years later, Klein would submit that color, under the name International Klein Blue (IKB), to the French patent office, resulting in patent number 63471. Nelson writes:

Standing in front of these blue paintings, or propositions, at the Tate, feeling their blue radiate out so hotly that it seemed to be touching, perhaps even hurting, my eyeballs, I wrote but one phrase in my notebook: too much.

Writers have reported seeing IKB appear in runway shows in the last decade, citing collections by Diane von Furstenburg, Giorgio Armani, and Proenza Schouler. The problem is that International Klein Blue isn’t a color you can spot—it’s a process. Unless you are standing in front of a work by Klein, or visiting an art-supply store in Paris, you’re not looking at it.

Klein started painting ultramarine monochromes in the late ’40s but entered the ’50s dissatisfied with his results. Soon after his first exhibition 60 years ago, Klein began working with an art supplier in Paris named Edouard Adam, looking to create a blue that was evading him. As he wrote in an unpublished paper, quoted in Philip Ball’s book Bright Earth, Klein was struggling with the fixatives used to turn powder into pigments: “The affective magic of the color had vanished. Each grain of powder seemed to have been extinguished individually by the glue or whatever material was supposed to fix it to the other grains as well as to the support.” With the help of Adam and the chemical manufacturer Rhône-Poulenc, Klein found a synthetic resin called Rhodopas M60A in 1956. When combined with an ultramarine pigment, this colorless medium allowed the powder to retain what Klein described as “pure energy,” which may be what Nelson experienced as “too much.”

In 2011 I had an encounter
 with muchness in Nice, Klein’s main home until his death in 1962, at the age of 34. After missing a flight to Paris, I ended up in the city on a brutally sunny day. I wandered away from the airport, walked up a hill, and found Nice’s largest modern-art museum, MAMAC. The MAMAC was showing a piece made in 1960 at Klein’s apartment, a solid sheet of ultramarine covered in white handwriting. It was the manifesto of Nouveau Réalisme, a brief, not entirely coherent artistic movement named in 1960 by art critic Pierre Restany, Klein’s friend. I wasn’t that interested in what the collective was up to—they were kaput by 1970 and I had managed to be invested in 20th-century art without ever hearing of them. I walked past the manifesto, directly into more Klein. A branch, about two feet high, was standing on end. It was painted entirely in IKB. Next to that sat a dusty pyramid of IKB pigment. I felt the color reach into me and coat my nerves. I had never understood the alleged intensity of monochromes in art, yet here I was, in love with a color and unaware it had its own name.

You can go, right now, to Adam Montmartre (96 Rue Damrémont; 33-1/46-06-60-38), a shop in Paris established in 1898 by Adam’s grandfather Gaston and now maintained by his nephew, Fabien, after his death this past February. You could buy a one-liter or five-liter jar of Le Medium Adam25 and make your own pile or mix it with a medium and paint with it. This would be a genuine encounter with International Klein Blue, but because of the rules laid down by the Klein estate, you wouldn’t be able to refer to it as Klein blue. This is confusing, as Klein himself enlisted Adam to create IKB—which is what a jar of Le Medium Adam25 is—but the estates of dead artists tend to be less flexible than the whims of living artists.

Designer Valeria McCulloch, who once claimed that she wears only Klein blue, and France Telecom, which sold a phone in 1998 under the name Klein blue, are only two of many acting under a categorical delusion that is perhaps the most generative part of Klein’s patent. All these dresses and phones simply embody various shades of bleu d’outremer—ultramarine. France Telecom was sued by the Klein estate, as it was using the name “Klein” for commercial purposes, but otherwise the Klein estate does not legally disabuse people of thinking they are printing things in Klein blue or wearing Klein blue as long as they keep the name Klein out of it. (Hence, the Adam Montmartre shop selling “Adam25” and not “Klein blue.”) You cannot patent a color. The 1960 patent covers only a chemical procedure that fixes ultramarine pigment in a certain way and connects it to a family name.

Hold a jar of IKB and you see something lighter and more intense than all the other things you thought were Klein blue. This is not so surprising, as you’re not looking at paint but at powdery granules coated with polyvinyl acetate: the undiluted form of Klein’s blue energy. This is part of Klein’s cockeyed triumph. His arrogance was unchecked, but his idea ended up more than just conceptual tomfoolery. The idea of chasing the great blue monochrome came to him as a teenager, when he “signed the sky” while lying on a beach in Nice. The color he ended up fixing on had a universal appeal, even as he struggled to make it unique to him. Klein’s work hasn’t started flipping like Basquiats, and we aren’t seeing more museum retrospectives for Klein than for any of his con- temporaries. Klein simply helped make ultramarine popular and led people to believe they loved a color they may have never seen. This is logical. It’s fun to think a person claimed a color, turning the mundane into something you can root for and be slightly snooty about: “This color is a famous blue, not just blue.” And IKB does, empirically, live on; anyone can buy the pigment, which is where Klein’s concept turns back on itself. For a painter, using IKB would be an act of reappropriation, like writing a song using one of Sonic Youth’s guitar tunings. An artist using Adam25 is in Klein’s country, working around and against his rules. So many of the artists who might paint with Klein blue likely won’t, and the people confessing their love for IKB are talking about a different color. And it’s a lovely confusion."
yvesklein  blue  internationalkleinblue  ikb  2015  shashafrere-jones  color  colors  art  1957  lemediumadam25  ultramarine  reappropriation  confusion 
march 2016 by robertogreco
The Propaganda of Pantone: Colour and Subcultural Sublimation — LOKI
"Questions of representation are central to the practice of graphic design. An understanding of who we are speaking for, and who we are speaking to, is the starting point of any design brief. It is through this role of mediation, expressed as aesthetic form, that design enacts its power and responsibility. However, this mediation often happens uncritically, guided by a designer’s intuition, stylistic trends, and the instrumental framework of marketing and PR concerns. A multiplicity of factors, conscious and unconscious, play into a designer’s aesthetic choices of imagery, typography, composition and colour. And as much as some might argue to the contrary, none of these choices are neutral.

In the case of colour, Pantone Inc. holds incredible influence with their increasingly marketed and mediatised Colour of the Year campaigns. Purportedly determined through a prescient reading of the cultural zeitgeist (by a select cabal of colour specialists), it is important to understand that the company, and the industry it serves, have their own specific interests and agendas that drive these selections. Pantone’s choice of “Rose Quartz” and “Serenity” as the 2016 Colour of the Year is the most insidious move by this colour-industrial-complex since “Blue Iris” in 2008. As with “Blue Iris”, Pantone has once again mined the subcultural landscape and used their monopoly within the creative industries to propagate their colour properties to the world.

From IK Blue to Blue Iris

Pantone was on point in 2008, presenting a slightly muted version of the IK Blue (International Klein)/RGB Blue trend that evolved out of the Dutch “default design” approach of the early 2000s. Default design advocated against the smooth surfaces of graphic professionalism, employing low-res imagery, system fonts, crude layouts, and the standard web link hex-colour #0000FF. It incorporated a self-referential criticism into its aesthetic, and the prominent use of RGB Blue became a clear signifier of this. The colour was carried forward with the emergence of a vaguely defined “critical graphic design” aesthetic, shifting between Default, IK, and Reflex Blue, and it was often used monochromatically, in large flat swathes that were both vivid and jarring.

Though IK Blue and RGB Default Blue are not the same, their intense visceral effect is similar, stemming from the colours’ physical/digital materiality; Klein’s blue was unique due to the synthetic resin binder which allowed the pigment to maintain its clarity, whereas Default Blue is as pure a blue as the RGB spectrum can achieve. Referenced in William Gibson’s 2010 novel Zero History, the character Hubertus Bigend has a suit made entirely of material in IK Blue. He states that he wears this because the intensity of the colour makes other people uncomfortable, and because he is amused by the difficulty of reproducing the colour on a computer monitor. Gibson, an astute cultural observer, used this reference to acknowledge its avant-garde popularity while pointing to the inherent subversive quality of the colour.

The mainstreaming of “Blue Iris” by Pantone softened the subversive punch of IK Blue (which by 2008 was already an identifiable commodity in contemporary art and fashion circles), further bolstering its popularity amongst designers and the consumer population at large.

Rose Quartz and Serenity

“Rose Quartz” and “Serenity” (hereafter abbreviated as RQ+S) present a far more nefarious situation. There’s no doubt that Pantone’s trend forecasters/cool hunters are once again on point (much more so than last year’s Marsala), yet anyone who has spent a little too much time on Tumblr over the last few years probably could have seen this coming. The tonal pink and blue palette has been growing exponentially in popularity online since the emergence (circa 2010-11), purported death (circa 2012), and expanding influence of the micro-cultures of Seapunk, and its successor, Vaporwave, as part of a more broadly defined subculture of internet-fuelled art employing what can be described as a Tumblr aesthetic.

The popular use of these colours, and specifically their combined usage, has emerged out of a tumultuously contested subcultural space. Pantone’s conceptual framing of RQ+S is disingenuous at best, and once one digs a little deeper, can be seen to represent a clearly reactionary political force."



"Vaporwave: The Jester in the King’s Court

Vaporwave has been hailed as Seapunk’s successor, though it actually emerged in parallel, with less dolphins, and a more mature theoretical grounding. The dolphins have been replaced by renderings of the assorted detritus of techno-capitalism; anachronistic corporate logos, dead media formats, GUI elements, and perspective grids. Musically, the genre samples and remixes the corporate soundscape; elevator and on-hold music, the piped-in pop of shopping malls and office lobbies, smooth jazz, easy listening and motivational new age harmonies. Vaporwave differentiates itself from Seapunk through its critical self-awareness, and it is far more intentional in how it employs its parodic kitsch aesthetics. It is darkly cynical and sickly sweet, exemplified by artist and label names such as The Pleasure Centre, New Dreams Ltd., Fortune 500, Business Casual or Condo Pets.

Analysis of the genre points to Vaporwave operating within what can be described as an accelerationist framework; expanding, repurposing and exaggerating the technosocial processes of capitalism in order to provoke radical social change. Its saccharine caricature of corporate culture engages whole-heartedly with the alienating nostalgia of the post-authentic, playing the role of the jester in the king’s court, or acting as a hall of mirrors in the funhouse enclosures of capital. Its tactics have abandoned confrontational resistance to instead lubricate the symbolic ground upon which capitalism stands, and offer it a series of gentle, yet insistent, nudges.

In 2015, in a desperate attempt to stay relevant, MTV (a Viacom International Inc. company) rebranded with a full-on Vaporwave aesthetic and the Orwellian tagline “I am my MTV”. Undoubtedly counselled by agency customer-engagement experts it was as transparent as it was blatant. Their VMA campaign promos featured Miley Cyrus gesticulating in front of a green screen, enticing the public to fill in the blank(ness) with their unpaid labour. The crowd-sourced results feel tepid at best, with a significant percentage of the content created by agencies and design studios, most-likely commissioned by MTV. And within all of the internet-y visual chaos, a smooth and uniform surface reappears. In spite of this co-option, or perhaps due to it, the Vaporwave aesthetic continues to evolve and expand, within the not so hidden corners of subreddits, and to mutate and accelerate, parading on the front lines of fashion.

It is not my intention to ascribe any sort of authorial/authoritative origin story to this recombinant aesthetic. Popular style emerges from a confluence of tendencies and cultural currents. The lineage of afro-futurist visual culture and contemporary afro-punk fashion have had a significant influence on the development of this aesthetic. Singular artists such as MIA, with her groundbreaking 2005 album Arular and the entirety of her oeuvre since, also provides a prescient cultural touchstone. Japanese kawaii purikura (photobooths), and their viral app counterparts, exemplify how software tools are often indivisible from the aesthetic culture they create and contribute to. And within graphic design, the trajectory of Metahaven's work (and that of their Werkplaats acolytes), with its disordered and distorted forms, photoshop filters and powerpoint layouts, alongside healthy doses of IK Blue and digital debris, can be read as a palimpsest of the overlapping layers that have come to define the look and feel of these times."



"#aesthetic

Tumblr has proven to be a nurturing (though certainly not safe) space for the circulation of subcultural and counter-cultural interests, and the ideas and imagery of these feminist currents run in parallel, overlap and intersect with the aforementioned micro-cultures on the platform. Of course, the diversity of content posted on Tumblr is inherently limitless, yet nonetheless cohesive aesthetic tendencies emerge, reflecting the interests and aspirations of its most avid users. The term "aesthetic" itself has come to represent a specific genre of imagery on Tumblr that can be easily identified as the subcultural inspiration for RQ+S.

We are presented with a visual landscape of soft pinks and blues, a post-ironic poetics articulated through memes, digital art, selfies, and threaded "ask me anything" conversations. Taken as a whole, there is an undeniable ebullient softness to it, but roiling just beneath the surface is a crystalline anger directed at the way things are, be it gender normativity, the surveillance state, or good old-fashioned capitalist alienation. The emergence of this Tumblr #aesthetic represents the reclamation of symbolic vocabulary from the realm of commodity production, placing it back into the hands of the young, the feminine, the marginal."
aesthetics  art  design  culture  pantone  2016  2015  2008  mtv  webrococo  mia  softness  kawaii  afropunk  metahaven  williamgobson  ikb  internationalkleinblue  blue  seapunk  tumblr  subcultures  gra[hicdesign  graphics  rosequartz  blueiris  vaporwave  rgbdefaultblue  zerohistory  web  online  internet  vma  yvesklein 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Manual Issue 4: Blue | e-flux
"Indigo blue, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, cerulean blue, zaffre blue, indanthrone blue, phthalo blue, cyan blue, Han blue, French blue, Berlin blue, Prussian blue, Venetian blue, Dresden blue, Tiffany blue, Lanvin blue, Majorelle blue, International Klein Blue, Facebook blue. The names given to different shades of blue speak of plants, minerals, and modern chemistry; exoticism, global trade, and national pride; capitalist branding and pure invention. The fourth issue of Manual is a meditation on blue. From precious substance to controllable algorithm to the wide blue yonder, join us as we leap into the blue. 

From the Files: Curatorial assistant A. Will Brown discusses color theory of Joseph Albers’s Homage to the Square series, revealing notations on the back of the canvases. 

Double Takes: Curator Dominic Molon and cognitive scientist Karen Schloss illuminate the perceptual play of a Dan Flavin light sculpture; conservator Ingrid Neumann and curator Lawrence Berman unearth the matter and meaning of the ancient pigments in an Egyptian paintbox; art historian Margot Nishimura and paper preservation specialist Linda Catano look closely at the exquisite details and hues of a 15th-century manuscript illumination. 

Object Lessons: Curator Kate Irvin provides a tactile archaeology of the faded shades of indigo of a Japanese boro garment. Louis van Tilborgh and Oda van Maanen of the Van Gogh Museum examine the dominant blues and disappearing violets of van Gogh’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise. 

Portfolio: A survey of blue from azure to zaffre. 

How To: Curator Elizabeth A. Williams illuminates the history of blue and white porcelain. Photographer Anna Strickland discusses Anna Atkins’s early cyanotypes. 

Artists on Art: Artist Spencer Finch presents a tear-out color study. Author Maggie Nelson considers an Alice Neel’s portrait. Graphic designer Jessica Helfand mixes Facebook blue with the cyanotype process."
blue  color  colors  indigo  josefalbers  awillbrown  dominicmolon  karenscholes  danflavin  ingridneumann  lawrenceberman  margotnishimura  lindacatano  kateirvin  louisvantilborgh  odavanmaanen  vangogh  elizabethwilliams  annastrickland  annaatkins  maggienelson  aliceneel  jessicahelfand  cyanotypes  glvo  boro  yvesklein  ikb  toread  2015  internationalkleinblue 
march 2015 by robertogreco
BBC - Culture - Yves Klein: The man who invented a colour
"“The genius of Klein is becoming more and more apparent,” says Catherine Wood, Tate Modern’s curator of contemporary art and performance. “He has been dismissed by some art historians as a charlatan or – because of his use of naked female models – as conventional and sexist, but his strategies were playfully critical and are becoming more significant in their influence for the younger generation. It could be argued that he was a critical prankster on par with Duchamp.”

Expanding the spectrum

For all his influence on conceptual art, though, Klein was most preoccupied with colour. As early as 1956, while on holiday in Nice, he experimented with a polymer binder to preserve the luminescence and powdery texture of raw yet unstable ultramarine pigment. He would eventually patent his formula as International Klein Blue (IKB) in 1960.

Before that, though, he made his name with an exhibition held in Milan in January 1957 that included 11 of his unframed, identical signature blue monochromes, one of which was bought by the Italian artist Lucio Fontana. This show ushered in what Klein called his “Blue Revolution”, and soon he was slapping IKB onto all sorts of objects, such as sponges, globes and busts of Venus. Even his ‘living brushes’ dipped their flesh in IKB.

Art historians still debate the significance of Klein’s use of ultramarine. For some, it represented a break with angst-ridden abstraction, which was popular in the wake of World War II. Painted mechanically using a roller, Klein’s flat, blank monochromes seemed to rebuff expressionist art.

For other scholars, though, Klein’s depthless monochromes and obsession with ‘the void’ can be understood as expressions of the threat of nuclear holocaust. “We absolutely must realise – and this is no exaggeration – that we are living in the atomic age,” Klein once said, “where all physical matter can vanish from one day to the next to surrender its place to what we can envision as the most abstract.”

Yet perhaps his love of blue is less specific and more profound. Klein was a pious Catholic, and in religious art blue often represents eternity and godliness. For instance, Giotto, whom Klein admired, was a brilliant advocate of blue. Klein’s ultramarine monochromes are not overtly Christian, but he certainly used the sensuousness of IKB to suggest spirituality. As he once said, “At first there is nothing, then there is a profound nothingness, after that a blue profundity.”

Certainly, his rich, radiant monochromes share a singular characteristic: they all have a vertiginous quality that seems to suck us out of reality towards another, immaterial dimension. The effect of looking at them is not dissimilar to meditating upon a deep azure sky – something that Klein perhaps intuited as a young man, on that beach in Nice in 1947.



When considering Klein, then, it is important to remember that for all his stunts and attention-grabbing performances he was a sensualist as much as a provocateur – and that this accounts for his fondness for colour. “For Klein, pure colour offered a way of using art not as a means of painting a picture, but as a way of creating a spiritual, almost alchemical experience, beyond time, approaching the immaterial,” explains Kerry Brougher, who curated the major retrospective Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC, in 2010.

“Out of all the colours Klein used, ultramarine blue became the most important. Unlike many other colours, which create opaque blockages, ultramarine shimmers and glows, seemingly opening up to immaterial realms. Klein’s blue monochromes are not paintings but experiences, passageways leading to the void.”"
yvesklein  blue  art  history  color  ikb  internationalkleinblue  2014  arthistory 
september 2014 by robertogreco

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