The exhibition’s title comes from a text by Yves Klein (France, 1928) written in 1952. This declaration belongs to a collection of poems written in March that year, where Klein tries to define his position in the field of art by exploring the phenomenon of the visible in his work. This phrase—here incomplete—is in a sense the affirmation of the chromatic problem in art as an event and as a territory of action, which would later become a central issue in his work.
The letters exchanged between Mathias Goeritz (Poland, 1915) and Klein in 1960 evince the encounter between these two figures. In light of the moment’s artistic and historic context, they could be interpreted as the complicity and interest of two artists that through different paths and positions reached similar formal solutions at the same time. In this sense, the project presented in Museo Experimental el Eco seeks to place the emotional architecture program developed here by Goeritz—through which he dealt with the rationalist/ functionalist architecture of the international style from a Mexican context and which is also the metaphysical background of his work—in “conversation” with Klein’s immaterial project and his ideas on the monochrome.
This exhibition explores the notion of a field of action in artistic production beyond the historic moment, and situates the chromatic problem as poetic substance for the generation of statements by other artists. As part of this, the IKB (International Klein Blue) is manifested in the space designed by Mathias Goeritz as a curatorial gesture that arranges an environment for the works convened.
The extremes touch: Goeritz and Klein met in Europe, quite probably in late 1959 or early 1960; shortly afterwards, Goeritz would write a first letter inviting him to contribute to the magazine Revista Arquitectura published in Mexico at the time, where Goeritz was the editor of the arts section for several years. His invitation was the beginning of a conversation between two figures that embodied their historic moment in a particularly sensitive and visionary way—Klein, in France, in a context marked by the postwar and banking on changing the paradigms of art; and Goeritz in Mexico, a fertile ground for him in the late 1940’s, having just emigrated from Europe via Morocco and the south of Spain. Their collaboration never crystallized, because of Klein’s sudden death from a heart attack in 1962, when he was 34 years old.
Goeritz wrote a text for that same magazine after Klein’s death titled “A Defense,” which says:
“Although my work is similar to his, in essence it tries to say the opposite. It’s just that the extremes touch. The fundamental difference is that Klein gave great “artistic” value to his works (in other words, to himself) and I commission mine on the phone (as Malevich had prophesied), considering them to be decorative objects that must be subordinated to a whole, in order to achieve a spiritual atmosphere.”
They both produced pieces at that same time, made from wooden stretchers covered in gold leaf: monochromes of sorts where materiality is a source of light, and where reflections on those very works create mirages and environments that transform. There are subtle differences between them, the works of Goeritz with uniform surfaces sometimes respond to the measurements of the walls they were destined for, whereas Klein’s have a few protuberances or loose leaves of gold that provide them with a certain appearance of “disorder.” Goeritz called them Messages within the logic of art as plastic prayer (as he called it), where art as a means of individual expression has stopped making sense. About Goeritz’s Messages, Ida Rodríguez Prampolini wrote in 1961 in a text titled The Monochromatic Painting, that “what’s important is the unity of the concept, and individual expression disappears.” Klein named his works Monogold, in direct reference to the monochrome and his ideas around zones of pure sensibility.
This artistic alchemy was the same one that led Klein to producing Monogold, and was also expressed in the way in which Klein Blue operated from the designation of objects and surfaces as his work of art. There’s an anecdote about how this yearning began in 1947 with the fantasy a young artist had of signing the sky, designating and expanding his territory of action.
In The day is blue, The silence is green, Life is yellow…, Andrea Martínez’s photographs start from an inquiry on light and landscape, making direct references to territory through coordinates that become abstract in the presence of the changing skies they document. Gonzalo Lebrija contributes a contemporary use of gold through three large panels that add flight as one more reading to this equation, from “folds” that move towards three-dimensionality and use paper planes as their reference. The collection of nearly three hundred pieces by Claudia Fernández explores the possibilities of painting as emplacement in a specific space in time, making reference to the vastness of an inner and outer universe. Melanie Smith’s recorded voice functions as a female presence from the museum’s bar, introducing questions of political and literary representation in this conversation.
The bronze sculptures by Yolanda Paulsen contribute an “animality” to the problem of abstraction, bringing up readings on space and forms of relationships within architecture. Emanuel Tovar’s piece produces a relic from an action that could even be read as an act of vandalism, bringing back to this space the yellow of El Eco’s tower, which temporarily changed its color. Lastly, this poster shows the image of the painting Sonnenlicht (Sunlight) made in 1963 by the artist Rotraut Uecker, who was Yves Klein’s wife and who also explored at the time questions related to representation and color. Although not physically here, its presence strongly contributes to this history.
Top image: Rotraut, Sonnenlicht (sunlight), 1963, digital reproduction of an acrilic panting.