Monday, December 7, 2009

Yellow and Blue

"Besides, I don't even like the colors green and red together. The summer colors, Yellow, Green, and Blue are SO much prettier to look at!"

- That was one line of an argument I submitted to someone this weekend about why I'm Grinchy. When you spend entire weeks and eventually entire years of your life looking at pigments and daubs and brushstrokes of colors, you start to get a feel of what is attractive to you optically. I've got my optical allurements down pat: Blacks and whites over browns, always. Jewel tones over pastels.  Contrasting colors will always catch my eye better than well-behaved, blended, harmonious colors. Grey is in fact my favorite color, because of the peculiar power it has to make every other color that it is laid down next to just POP. I love contrast all the way around, which is probably the reason I am so obsessed with the painter Gene Davis, see his picture above. Full of contrasts- each color is laid next to another that will make its edges shimmer.  In short, I like my colors to convey action, daring, boldness, and honesty. It can be argued that even my color tastes convey a sense of my summer-obsession (wow. That sentence reads like something straight out of one of my research papers. Meh. I'm leaving it in.). Winter you just sit around in the house looking at the murky mix of brown, green, and red. Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeh.

Pretty as they might have been, you may have noticed when you first arrived on this blog today that I took down the post-colonial ballerinas from the top of my blog and replaced them with blue, which has then, as is customary, been overlaid by my favorite bright yellow title. I feel right at home with this arrangement.

Guess what? There's an art story to go with the above blue. A good story. This blue has a name: IKb, pronounced "ick-Bee" (which also happens to be the name of a beta fish residing on the GW Art History Dept's front desk). IKb, which stands for International Klein Blue, was invented last century.  Yes, that's right. The color was invented by the French artist Yves Klein (well, no, it was invented by chemists, under Klein's supervision. Then he humbly named it after himself.) Yves Klein is an interesting character in the history of modern art, and his IKblue stands as one of his most crowning achievements. In fact, if I had to put money on what art history books fifty years from now will still say about him, I would bet that he's going down for his use of IKb. This IKb color is made of a pigment suspended in a chemical so that there's pretty much NO reflection coming off a canvas covered in it. Looking at his monochrome blue paintings is like looking at velvet, or the sky, or something. You know how velvet just looks... deeper and shadowy-er than other materials? Yea. Very cool effect. Not reproducible on a computer, but the above was a fairly decent approximation.

One of the most vivid memories I took away from my modern art class at BYU, the first upper-level art history class I ever took, was my Professor Magleby showing us pictures of Yves Klein at work and then announcing, "And here we have Yves Klein, I can't stand him. Such a misogynist. Moving on..." and then we moved on to someone else.

Kind of shocking, you'd think, for a teacher to dismiss someone currently deemed very important to the arc of art history! (The Hirshhorn, in fact, has a giant retrospective of Yves Klein's career coming up I think next year). But when I tell you that the picture Magleby had put up was a picture of Yves Klein, dressed in a tux complete with white gloves, standing over a white-paper-covered floor and ordering around nude women covered in IKb (all done in front of an audience), you may understand. Bleeeeeeeeh.

Nevertheless, like I said, interesting character, which makes for a historically resilient artist. Klein had lots of crazy post-modern ideas about art. He started with these "anthropomorphisms": the paintings of naked people's imprints on canvases (sometimes he'd do these himself... so I guess he can't be labeled a complete jerk). Sometimes Klein would paint with certain chemicals on specially prepared surfaces and then set the whole thing on fire, just to see how the paints changed (see left image,
Untitled fire color painting, 1962, Charred dry pigment in synthetic resin with metallic paint on asbestos-coated paper on board, from the MOMA collection). Klein also did lots of photomontages where it looks like he's leaping off buildings or doing other crazy feats. He had interests in Judo, Oriental philosophy, and the hereafter. In addition, he was probably a total misogynist; the whole ordering women around was a conceptual stunt meant to show off that artists in the sixties, in the now, didn't even NEED to touch the canvas to be considered artists anymore. Whatever, dude. Happy that his time has passed. But he did leave an imprint (I joke!) and a color behind him, a pretty summery color, so he has earned this tiny mention on my blog. And now, it's finals week, and I am putting the finishing touches on my massive essay about Manet. After I have recovered a few of my currently-comatose brain cells, I'll tell you about The Railway. Next time. :) Have a great week everyone!


Katie said...

I must first say that my home (yes home, not apartment!! Yay!!) is decked out in red and green Christmas decorations and I listen to Pandora Christmas music on a daily basis during December. But, that aside, I really enjoy reading your perspective. I love that we can have our differences and still love each other! Good luck with finals; I know you will ROCK them!!

Spencer said...

I'm still mad about your last post. So is everyone else. They just won't say it!

ynny said...

Bring it. I know I'm being a Grinch. Too many years of finals stress and $#@*! snow pretty much destroyed my natural cheer; it's tragic. Consider this post a cry for help if you will.

Raunee said...

I love reading your posts! I never thought about colors that way. Good luck on your finals!

Jayci said...

wow that is a neat piece of art. looks like an artistic representation of an oil spill. Very deadly, but in it's own regard, very beautiful! Interesting that it was painted on asbestos. :P Good luck in your finals!

Olsen Family said...

Good thing you are going home for Christmas or I would have to steal you away and do something fun in good old D.C. We still love you even though you are a grinch who hates music! Have you watched the Grinch who stole Christmas? Your heart is shrinking but it will be fixed soon!!! love you Linds!

Judy Anne said...

Colors and mixtures are what make this world what it is. I love that the Lord can mix any colors together and make it fab! We mear mortals are just trying to tap into some of His genius.