PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
‘I seek to put the spectator in front of the fact that colour is an individual, a character, a personality. I solicit a receptivity from the observer placed before my works. This permits him to consider everything that effectively surrounds the monochrome painting. Thus he can impregnate himself with colour and colour impregnates itself in him. Thus, perhaps, can he enter into the world of colour’
‘While working on my paintings in my studio, I sometimes used sponges. Evidently, they very quickly turned blue! One day I perceived the beauty of blue in the sponge; this working tool all of a sudden became a primary medium for me. The sponge has that extraordinary capacity to absorb and become impregnated with whatever fluid, which was naturally very seductive to me. Thanks to the natural and living matter of sponges, I was able to make portraits of the readers of my monochromes, which, after having seen and traveled into the blue of my paintings, returned from them completely impregnated with sensibility, just as the sponges’
Relief Éponge 37 (RE 37) is a unique, monochrome sponge-relief made by Yves Klein in 1959 at the height of his involvement with the sponge-medium. It derives from the period when Klein was simultaneously preoccupied with his first exhibition of Sponge Sculptures and Sponge Reliefs at the Galerie Iris Clert in Paris and also with the creation of a vast monochrome interior of the Gelsenkirchen Opera House. Comprising a near-square, blue, monochrome panel that, uniquely among all the artist’s sponge-reliefs, has here been so completely encrusted with sponges as to become both hidden and transformed into a truly three-dimensional object, RE 37 is a work whose form responds to the concerns of both these seminal, but very differently scaled, projects from 1959. Visibly transcending the conventional boundaries between painting and sculpture, it is a work that physically asserts itself as existing somewhere between, or even beyond, these two disciplines. In so doing, therefore it physically articulates the burgeoning, boundary-less nature of Klein’s concept of the ‘immaterial’ void and the art that he called his ‘monochrome proposition’.
The idea of infusing the mind of man with a profound and moving sense of the vast scale, infinite dimension and, for Klein, immaterial, nature of the universe or the ‘void’, as he often chose to refer to it, was one that lay at the very heart of his life’s work. Combining the immaterial presence of the artist’s radiant but featureless monochrome blue canvases with the unique and distinctive material presence of the natural sponge, Klein’s sponge-reliefs form an elegant pictorial synthesis of his ideas and are also among the finest plastic expressions of his deeply Romantic and transcendental aesthetic. For Klein, the sponge, an ancient, organic, ocean-dwelling creature physically indicative of both the wonder and the mystery of nature, was, when impregnated with the deeply resonant ultramarine blue that he had himself patented, the perfect symbol of the ability of man’s brain – which the sponge also resembles – to absorb and perceive a sense of the immaterial reality of the void.
Colour is immaterial sensibility. It is a powerful but intangible element able to provoke strong emotion and sensation in the viewer. For Klein, the colour blue was preeminent, being the colour of the sky and the sea and therefore, a colour ‘beyond dimensions’. In this respect it was the colour most indicative of the infinite and the void.
The sponge had first suggested itself to Klein as a medium for his art when he began to use it as a means of distancing his hand, the act of painting and all concept of painterliness or ‘peinture’, from the creation of his monochromes. ‘While working on my paintings in my studio, I sometimes used sponges. Evidently, they very quickly turned blue! One day I perceived the beauty of blue in the sponge; this working tool all of a sudden became a primary medium for me. The sponge has that extraordinary capacity to absorb and become impregnated with whatever fluid, which was naturally very seductive to me. Thanks to the natural and living matter of sponges, I was able to make portraits of the readers of my monochromes, which, after having seen and traveled into the blue of my paintings, returned from them completely impregnated with sensibility, just as the sponges’ (Notes on Certain Works Exhibited at the Colette Allendy Gallery, in Yves Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publications, New York 2007, p. 22).
Klein conceived of a work such as Relief Éponge bleu sans titre (RE 37) as an essentially physical manifestation of the dialogue that he hoped to induce between the ‘sensibility’ of the viewer and the vast monochromatic expanse of intense resonant and ‘dimensionless’ blue that he had first expounded in his blank, featureless monochrome blue paintings. Elegant encapsulations of the monochrome vision that formed the foundation stone of his art - what Klein described as his ‘monochrome adventure’ – Klein’s Sponge Reliefs are powerful otherworldly invocations of the vast scale and grandeur of this vision of an immaterial realm of sensibility and of its necessary extension into the material world.
It was for the vast monochrome, blue, interior of the Gelsenkirchen Opera House that Klein had first devised the concept of the Sponge Reliefs. It was there that the sponge first suggested itself to Klein as a means of developing his work away from the simple, flat, singular expanse of colour of his monochrome paintings still effectively rooted in the traditions of easel painting. Creating a new and now, textural, otherworldly landscape of colour, Klein could now extend the principle of his monochrome blue out from the picture plane and into the real space of the viewer to become a truly all-immersive installation in real space. It was this quality of these works that he also immediately expanded upon in his intimately-scaled exhibition at Iris Clert’s gallery, also in 1959, by creating a forest-like environment, where Sponge Reliefs appeared to grow off the walls in the presence of other singular, free-standing Sponge Sculptures raised on plinths throughout the tiny gallery space.
Executed in the same year as these two great projects, Relief Éponge bleu sans titre (RE 37) is a stand-alone Sponge Relief that, also intimately scaled, is so completely packed with sponges that these otherworldly forms appear to be bursting out from the confines of its support and transforming it from a relief into something other. Like some strange sub-aquatic flower or an extraterrestrial creature undergoing a metamorphosis, Relief Éponge bleu sans titre (RE 37) is a work that signifies clearly how Klein saw his Sponge Reliefs as being the conceptual extension of his monochrome colour into a new spatial dimension. Being both a sculpture and a painting, and playing with the ambiguity between the two, it is a work that marks within itself this further development in Klein’s ever-expanding idea of painting reaching out into the realm of installation, performance and other new, unknown conceptual dimensions.
‘In proposing Collaboration in art to those artists with mind and heart’, Klein was later to say, ‘I am in fact proposing to them to overcome art itself and to work individually on returning to real life where the thinking man is no longer the center of the universe but the universe the center of man. (…) We shall thus become aerial men. We shall know the forces that pull us upwards to the heavens, to space, to what is both nowhere and everywhere. The terrestrial force of attraction thus mastered, we shall literally escape into a complete physical and spiritual freedom!’ (Speech Delivered on the Occasion of the Tinguely Exhibition in Düsseldorf (January 1959), in Yves Klein, Overcoming the Problems of Art: The Writings of Yves Klein, Spring Publications, New York 2007, p. 63).
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED PRIVATE COLLECTION
Relief Éponge bleu sans titre (RE 37)
signed, inscribed with the artist's star monogram and dated ‘* Yves 59’ (on the reverse)
Yves Klein (1928-1962)
P. Wember, Yves Klein, Cologne 1969, no. RE 37 (illustrated, p. 83).
Helmut Klinker, Bochum.
Galerie Alfred Schmela, Dusseldorf.
Private Collection, Germany.
Acquired from the above by the present owner circa 2007.