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Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 100)
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Not everyone digs Yves Klein and his naked blue women.

Yves Klein’s paintings have sold for astronomical sums and his mystique has not diminished since his death at age 34 in 1962. The artist is known for his loud fashion sense, painting without a brush, and of course the color “International Klein Blue”, which can be seen in the majority of his work. Many people, in the art world and beyond it, adore Klein, viewing him as some kind of cosmic being. I’m not kidding with the cosmic thing, one curator wrote that Klein was “some strange object who came, only for a short time, from the heavens to open our eyes and minds.” Seriously? There are a lot of controversial as well as commendable aspects of Klein’s career to cover. But there’s one particular method he used that still causes much debate: his use of naked ladies.

Klein’s Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 100) from 1960 was quite the performance. A performance of babes really, as Klein was considered to be quite the handsome dude, and his “paintbrushes” for the art performance? Young, attractive, naked women. Now this was different, there is no denying that. Klein was taking the depiction of the female nude to a very new level. Using his characteristic blue, Klein directed the women to put paint here and there and then print their forms on canvas while he directed with music playing in the background. Performance art and body printing made for a very famous work.

One of the “living paintbrushes” now in her early eighties, Elena Palumbo-Mosca met Klein when she was an au pair, finding him charming and attractive, she agreed to later work with him on Anthropometry. According to Palumbo-Mosca, Klein mostly directed her on where to place the blue paint on her body, then simply instructed her to print her form on canvas. Elena argued against being solely a “paintbrush” for Klein, claiming he referred to her and other women involved as his “collaborators.” Through Elena’s perspective, her and other women involved in Anthropometry were mindful, creative, co-workers with Klein, not exploited sex objects.

So what’s the problem? Well, feminist artists such as Helena Almeida felt that Klein portrayed and used women as objects in his work just the same, and was generally sexist throughout his life. Almeida went as far as to create a series of black and white photos, on which she painted thick blue strokes, a color very similar to Klein’s. For Study for Inner Improvement in 1977, Almeida essentially created a visual flip-off to Klein, reclaiming his blue for her own work and body. Almeida’s series protested against Klein’s own work such as Untitled Anthropometry (ANT 100) and Blue Women Art from 1962 (in which naked women slathered one another in blue paint) by making her own clothed body powerful, shown in some images to be eating and devouring Klein’s precious color blue. After completing her series, Almeida stated, “My work is my body, my body is my work.” Well said Helena, well said.

Honestly, I would love to have Klein come back as a time traveling hologram, or via séance, so that he could see Almeida’s series and respond. Maybe he’d order naked women to print their bodies against canvas to create a giant blue middle finger.

 

Sources

Sources

  1. Knas, Marta. “Throwback: ‘For Study for Inner Improvement’ 1977.” Idol, January 28, 2016. Accessed September 7, 2009. http://www.idolmag.co.uk/arts/throwback-for-study-for-inner-improvement-...
  2. Lack, Jessica. “Artist of the week 59: Helena Almeida.” The Guardian, October 7, 2009. Accessed September 8, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/oct/07/helena-almeida-port...
  3. Smith, Roberta. “Painting Thin Air, Sometimes in Bright Blue.” The New York Times, June 3, 2010. Accessed September 8, 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/04/arts/design/04klein.html.
  4. Palumbo-Mosca, Elena. “The woman who painted her body for artist Yves Klein.” Entertainment & Arts, BBC, October 21, 2016. Accessed, September 7, 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-37632356