Two men apart, by age and birth, yet very close in their conception of artistic revolution. The amazing thing is to find out that it is only the first of a long series. A game-challenge proposed by the exhibition “Klein Fontana. Milan Paris 1957-1962 “, from October 22 to” Museum of the twentieth century “: ninety works plus a rich selection of photographs, films and documents that highlight the parallels between the two authors. Sure, Fontana was present at the first exhibition of Klein in Milan and became one of his collector; had many gallery owners in common, including the effervescent Iris Clert; worked together on a project, never came to fruition, for the Venice Biennale in 1960; not to mention the numerous trips to France and Italy during which they met exchanging experiences and content. But that’s not the point, what I really had in common was a sense of their work: the two have been provocative, two genes that reduce art to a minimum. In a meticulous process “to remove” in Klein remained the color (a color, blue) in Fontana sign (a sign, cutting) Klein believed that the intense blue possessed a mystical quality and realized that the deeply saturated color was exactly what he needed to make his monochromes pop. He invented a technique for combining the gorgeous pigment with a synthetic binding material and patented the process. In effect, he owned a color, which he christened International Klein Blue (IKB). Without the interruption of lines, the pure lapis canvases provide the viewer with a totally overpowering experience. In a room filled with blue monochromes, you are totally transfixed by the intensity of the color. For Klein, the blue represented space. He wanted the experience of looking at his pure blue pigment to resemble what we feel when contemplating the endlessness of the sea and sky. International Klein Blue (or IKB as it is known in art circles) was developed by Yves Klein in collaboration with Eduoard Adam, a well-known Parisian art paint supplier whose shop is still in business on the Boulevard Edgar-Quinet in Montparnasse. The uniqueness of IKB does not derive from the ultramarine pigment, but rather from the matte, synthetic resin binder in which the color is suspended, and which allows the pigment to maintain as much of its original qualities and intensity of color as possible. The synthetic resin used in the binder is a polyvinyl acetate developed and marketed at the time under the name Rhodopas M or M60A by the French pharmaceutical company Rhône Poulenc.Adam still sells the binder under the name “Médium Adam 25.” In May 1960, Klein deposited a Soleau envelope, registering the paint formula under the name International Klein Blue (IKB) at the Institut national de la propriété industrielle (INPI). Contrary to popular belief, Klein never patented IKB. Only valid under French law, a soleau enveloppe merely registers the date of invention, according to the depositor, prior to any legal patent application. The copy held by the INPI was destroyed in 1965. Klein’s own copy, which the INPI returned to him duly stamped is still extant. In March 1960, Klein patented a method by which he was able to distance himself from the physical creation of his paintings by remotely directing models covered in the color.
The beauty of this exhibition allows viewers to celebrate Fontana’s career, and life. If viewers are left with any sense of regret, it is perhaps that Fontana spent his working life largely in Milan rather than Paris or New York, where he might have had a greater chance to influence the talented younger artists who were drawn to those artistic centers by the excitement of Tachisme and Abstract Expressionism. For whatever reason, Italy offered few potential students, as few ambitious and gifted young Italians dedicated themselves to artistic careers in the 1950s and ’60s. As a result Fontana, like Giorgio Morandi, appears today as a relatively isolated master rather than as a leader of an important movement. This retrospective leaves no doubt that this was a great loss for the visual art of the past half century.
Fontana was a great visual artist. Like the Abstract Expressionists and the Tachistes, he spent long periods looking at his work in progress: he once remarked, “When I’m sitting in front of one of my cuts, contemplating it, I suddenly feel a great revelation of the spirit.” Viewers can experience the same feeling, as Fontana’s mature works take us into a beautiful, timeless expanse. Like many other artistic and scientific innovators of the 20th century, Lucio Fontana was fascinated by the exploration of the cosmos, and his work consistently evokes the mysteries of space. His approach was always visual and experimental, rather than theoretical and conceptual, and this is what makes the trajectory of his career both fascinating and exciting, for his forms were always imprecise and elusive, uncertain images that represented a search for a distant visual realization. For Fontana, cutting the surface of a painting was a constructive gesture, that opened up his art to dimensions of time and space; much like the art of Jackson Pollock, that invited the viewer to imagine the work extending to infinity on the same plane as the canvas, Fontana’s perforations allow the viewer to imagine the work extending forward and backward in space from the two-dimensional surface of the canvas.
Two roads, different but contiguous, to arrive at a new definition of art. Yves Klein and Lucio Fontana were two of the most significant leaps in the history of twentieth century and now the Museum of Milan 900 brings them together in a show that, in some way, brings the town back to the fifties, when it was a real capital of international art. Right here, in the gallery of Brera Apollinaire, Klein in 1957 he exhibited his first blue monochromes. Silvia Bignami is, along with Giorgio Zanchetti, curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition – told us – is built as a story, want to tell the story of friendship and creative, the affection and the projects of the two artists along the Milan- Paris ”
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