In Search of the Absolute – Alberto Giacometti and Yves Klein

Pairing seemingly disparate artists together can often highlight similarities that may not seem immediately obvious. This interaction often produces exciting exhibitions, such as the recent Gagosian (Britannia Street) Show ‘AVEDON WARHOL’. These two artists had never been shown before, even though they worked in the same city at the same time, mainly in the field of portraiture. You can see my images of the exhibition here.

‘Driven by their cosmopolitan awareness and mindfulness of the potential for their work to stir change, as well as their diverse cast of modern muses, Avedon and Warhol harnessed the power of images to reflect the revolutionary social attitudes of their time.’ Gagosian Gallery

Sometimes the dialogue between the work isn’t as immediately illuminating, no matter how fascinating and talented the artists are. The current show at the Gagosian Grosvenor Hill looks at the groundbreaking work of Alberto Giacometti and Yves Klein. Both artists have been reduced to one note stereotypes by our ‘instant’ soundbite culture – bronze spindly stick figures, and of course THAT blue!

Working in the decades scarred by the aftermath of the second world war, both Giacometti and Klein dealt with the body and what it means to be human. Or to put it another way, and to use a phrase with almost infinite definitions, their work dealt with ‘the human condition’. What this exhibition does do is highlight the key accomplishments of each artist and the differences between them. A whole wall is devoted to Klein’s pigment works ‘Monochromes’, which put paid to the myth that everything Yves produced was the vibrant, and patented, International Klein Blue. There is a wonderful collection of Giacometti’s stunning bronze sculptures, (as well as some of his almost monochrome portraits) which stride through the sunlight spaces of the galleries,

‘meditating between nothingness and being’ Jean Paul Sartre.

They are surrounded by the large scale Anthropometrics, Klein’s body prints (records of the conceptual performance art happenings in which women were used as the ‘brushes’ of the artist) and these juxtapositions of vibrant colour versus subtle tones, the permanence of bronze compared with the record of a fleeting action, give the show a joy and playfulness that may not have been present in solo retrospectives.

So overall, not the eye opening triumph of Avedon Warhol, but a show that reminds us of both these artists’ desire to push forward… one pairing back the human form until it’s essence is revealed; the other exploring the conceptual ‘nothingness as a void of blue profundity’. Unifying them is their aspiration to to see where art could take us.

You can see my full set of images from this exhibition here.

The exhibition runs from  April 27 – June 11, 2016 at the Gagosian Gallery, Grosvenor Hill.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Penelope Daintry says:

    Thanks for this – really interesting, particularly for us turnips in La France Profonde!

    Liked by 1 person

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