Yves Klein & Edward Krasiński at Tate Liverpool is an exploration of two great 20th Century artists. The work of Klein is instantly recognisable; his solid blue paintings have become iconic and earned him the reputation of being a maverick. Klein’s work has almost constantly been exhibited throughout the past decades, gaining considerable attention from both visitors and collectors. However, Edward Krasiński has rarely been exhibited and his work may escape the most esteemed art fan. His sculptural work, made with wire, pipes and metals uses everyday objects in unusual ways in order to blur context and give new meanings.
The joint exhibition begins with Klein, split into three distinct sections, his so-called ‘fire’ paintings, his sculptural and performance based work and his blue paintings. The first thing any visitor will look for is a blue painting, popping out of any environment particularly the complementary setting of the white cube. It acts as almost a portal into another world, one of Klein’s simplicity and genius. Klein calls this ‘empty space’ ‘The Void’. This is Klein’s lifelong obsession with creating something out of nothingness, making the viewer stare at a single point or colour (blue) and ponder philosophy. This is also shown in an early photomontage image ‘Leap into the Void’ (1960) this shows Klein jumping from the window of a building, freeze-framed about to land on a hard concrete ground. In this image, it is the space between Klein and the ground that becomes the void for the viewer. Does Klein consider the void to mean death? Or does he want the viewer to imagine that he is almost swallowed up by the ground and taken to another dimension, like with his paintings. As well as the exploration of space, the work is also admirable for being an early feat of photo-trickery by merging to images into one. A photograph of Klein jumping and being caught by a group of people holding a rubber bed and one of the scenery including the ground.
While his fire paintings are interesting, they are experimental pieces that don’t particularly reflect Klein’s mastery. The final room of the Klein side shows two walls worth of blue paintings. These are about 78’ x 55” and are painted in the blue shade he calls ‘International Klein Blue’ hence the title of some of the painting being ‘IKB’ then an edition number. Alone, these works are fascinating, bringing a moment of calm and tranquillity to a sometimes over-crowded gallery of art pieces. However, the paintings do not have this effect in this exhibition. They seem bland and boring, too many for most to bother paying much attention to. Most visitors will pay no more than a glance to the works. As oppose to providing an alternative in an over-crowded gallery, the blue paintings become the over-crowded gallery. Although, this is not down to particularly bad curating. Perhaps, Klein isn’t an artist that benefits from a solo exhibition, his work is not varied enough to carry a whole show. He may be an artist whose work is better surrounded by other artist’s work, bringing something to the gallery that captures interest and imagination in a different way. A single blue painting may have been better suited in a surrounding such as Tate Liverpool’s Constellations series. Instead, the viewer is very much lost in blue.
The second part of the gallery is dedicated to Polish artist Edward Krasiński, his three-dimensional sculptures make up for the very flat work of Klein. His obscure human size sculptures resonate, bringing together poky bits of metal and wire with smooth and sharp textures. His sense of humour and irony shine throughout, with a telephone with solid metal wires and books spewing a continuous drip of shaped metal. Some of his work takes the form of Happenings, which are one-off artistic performances or events. These are represented at Tate through photographs. Even a reproduction of his office corridor using a door, which seems unnecessary. The entire exhibition is connected through blue scotch tape at precisely 130cm on the wall, as it was in his studio. Remarkably, the tape connects the exhibition together, crossing over individual artworks. This also acts as a continuation of the Klein exhibition, therefore making it one of the most cohesive Tate shared exhibitions. In the final part of the exhibition, mirrors hang from the ceiling, once again lined with blue tape. This seems to undermine Krasiński’s work, becoming almost novelty.
Despite Krasiński becoming an artist in later life, it is difficult to see why he has not received more recognition and been exhibited more. Overall, the artist’s work well together, keeping to a theme of blue. The curation of the exhibition appears to be mostly thematic as oppose to chronological fusing together ideas in particular areas. Tate Liverpool, successfully displays the artist’s, however it could have been interesting to see the artists sharing a space, making up for some of the empty space on the Klein side.
Image: Yves Klein, IKB 79 1959, Tate. © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2017