Ranked as one of the very first in the Anthropométries, Yves Klein's seminal series which lay the foundations for performance art and conceptual art, ANT 2 stands out as at once a startling and haunting masterpiece. In testament to its primacy, ANT 2 found its place as one of the stars of the Lauffs Collection, in part thanks to the judicious advice of Paul Wember, a close friend of both the collectors and the artist and author of the 1969 catalogue raisonné of Klein's work. Here, the image of a female nude leaps out from bare paper, silhouetted by a negative imprint in the deep ultramarine of Klein's signature IKB. The sumptuous purity of the pigment on raw paper, in a lusciously curved and ethereally sprayed outline, produces a tantalisingly contradictory image - at once minimal and abundantly allusive.
The epitome of mystery in simplicity, ANT 2 embodies crucial concerns from the artist's most exploratory period. The viewer is faced by a life-sized, faceless nude, whose arms are raised in perfect symmetry and whose body is cut off by the edge of the canvas, below the hands and thighs, to concentrate on what Klein regarded as the 'essential mass'. In this particular work, Klein's wife Rotraut served as model, her small frame silhouetted against the paper. However, hre body has been stripped of all peripheral features and attributes (face, hair, hands, knees and feet) in order to eliminate any suggestion of individuality, and thus to resist suggestions of intellectual or emotional complication. Instead the torso takes centre stage, focusing our attention on what Klein regards as the nucleus of corporeal energy. The figure, depersonalised and truncated, becomes an emblem for life itself. Recording the bodily process of creation but eliminating its specific depiction, Klein endeavours to capture its essence.
Unlike other works in the Anthropométries series in which Klein choreographed painted models to leave bodily imprints on paper, in ANT 2 Klein arranged the model, lying face-down on paper, and sprayed blue pigment around the body to create a negative impression. The attempt to capture the primal, unadulterated energy of the body on the surface of the paper, meant that the physicality of the process was recorded in the final product. Moreover, in his search for 'the mark of the immediate', Klein framed himself in an elegant withdrawal from the act of creation. Tongue in cheek, he subverted the traditional typecast of the artist-in-overalls by literally refusing to get his hands dirty. "I remain detached and distant, but it is under my eyes and my orders that the work of art must create itself. Then, when the creation starts, I stand there, present at the ceremony, immaculate, calm, relaxed, perfectly aware of what is going on and ready to welcome the work of art that is coming into existence in the tangible world." (Yves Klein, Selected Writings, 1928-1962, London, 1974, p.45)
Klein articulated his conceptual premise in language loaded with biblical lexicon: the Anthropométries series was at the heart of his project, the 'resurrection of the flesh'. In this, Klein explored the sublime and the tangible elements intrinsic to the phenomenological experience of being alive, where the body was the essential agent and signifier of the life force. Through his creative act, this process of immaculate conception was repeated over and again in various poses, the thrust of the series being to raise questions about agency, originality and individual expression. Klein was taking on the great western tradition of the female nude, by using the figure to eliminate the figurative.
At the same time, a poignant influence on Klein's work from this period were photographs from Hiroshima, of human outlines left in the contaminated earth. Klein had visited Japan in 1953 and seen the stone in Hiroshima which was marked with a silhouette of a single man, scorched into the rock by the atomic explosion. This was an image that remained imprinted on his memory, and indeed nowhere do the notions of void and moment fuse more movingly than in the intense outline and undulating depths of pigment in ANT 2.
In ANT 2 especially, the attempt to completely get rid of form and spatial illusionism results in a captivating negative space. The overwhelming implication of absence leaves a lasting impression of serene ghostliness – archetypal of Klein's aesthetic of the immaterial. Here, the silhouette's sublime twists and curls conjure up the apparition of a blue flame, an elemental breath of blue gas, like a flame of beauty. This epitomises Klein's reaction against Abstract Expressionism, whereby he attempted to free his work from materiality through totality of colour. Klein selected gold, red and especially the IKB seen here, as colours which came closest to his vision of the immaterial and the infinite: he saw them as an 'open window to freedom, as the possibility of being immersed in the immeasurable existence of colour' (the artist cited in Paul Wember, Yves Klein: Catalogue Raisonné, Cologne 1969, pp. 9, 11). With his monochromatic language, Klein aimed to stimulate independent sensations in the viewer, emancipated from the anchor of depiction. In this he fused the dual meaning of 'painting' (the application of pigment as opposed to the depiction of something); paint became the painting's subject.
With superb finesse, this piece captures the zeal of Klein's ground-breaking experimentation in the early 1960s: ANT 2 is an enduring and elegant vestige of the moment of its creation.
Dry pigment in synthetic resin on paper laid down on panel
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Yves Klein, 1965, n.p., no. 43, illustrated
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Yves Klein, 1966, no. 202
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Yves Klein, 1966, no. 43
New York, The Jewish Museum, Yves Klein, 1967
Nuremberg, Kunsthalle, Yves Klein, 1968, no. 38
Paris, Galerie Karl Flinker, Yves Klein, 1973, n.p., illustrated in colour on the cover of the catalogue
Zürich, Gimpel & Hanover Galerie, Yves Klein, 1973, n.p., illustrated in colour and on the cover of the catalogue
Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Städtische Kunstsammlungen, Yves Klein, 1974
Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Zeichnungen der 50er bis 70er Jahre aus dem Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld, 1980, p. 15, no. 56, illustrated
Krefeld, Museum Haus Lange, Wendepunkt: Kunst in Europa um 1960, 1980, no. 28
Krefeld, Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, Sammlung Helga und Walther Lauffs - Amerikanische und europäische Kunst der sechziger und siebziger Jahre, 1983-84, p. 31, no. 194, illustrated
Paris, Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais; Hannover, Sprengel Museum, Le Nouveau Réalisme: Revolution des Alltäglichen, 2007-08, p. 162, no. 88, illustrated in colour
119 by 80cm. 46 7/8 by 31 1/2 in.
Paul Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, p. 101, illustrated
Galerie Karl Flinker, Paris
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1973