The relationship between artists and their work is always fascinating as multitudes of ideas and interpretations can be harnessed from both complimentary and conflicting styles. A new exhibition at Gagosian Grosvenor Hill in London, will show the work of Giacometti and Klein together for the first time.
These two artists had an age gap of a whole generation and could not be more different: Giacometti was a master of material form, and of the representation of the figure; Klein was an influential theorist whose art married the conceptual with the cosmic.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s these two artists lived and worked within a mile of each other in the leftbank arrondisement of Montaparnasse in Paris. In Paris, in 1960 the critic Pierre Restany launched a movement that he named Le Nouveau Réalisme which both artists are associated with. Their style and approaches were very different but they both shared an understanding of the fallout after World War 2 and its effect on European culture.
Exhibition curator Joachim Pissarro remarks, “Both artists, rather than creating something that reflected the chaos, chose to rise above it, transforming and deciphering it into elegant, lyrical matter.”
Giacometti struggled with the fragile human presence whilst Klein dematerialised painting to create masses of saturated colour in the form of his gestural abstractions. In this exhibition Giacometti’s nervous figures sit alongside Klein’s expanses of colour offering, through their combination, a more multidimensional depiction of the experience of being an artist in a place at a given time.
The title of the exhibition, “In Search of the Absolute,” originates from an essay on Giacometti by the existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre wrote that “Giacometti… is forever beginning anew;” that with each sculpture it is “necessary to start again from zero;” and that Giacometti’s images of humanity are “always mediating between nothingness and being.” In the conceptual and working processes of both artists, “nothingness” became “the void,” a space of infinite potential.
Klein declared that “True ‘painters and poets’ don’t paint and don’t write poems,” as he played with the vacuum of nothingness to further open up and explore the void whilst Giacometti focussed on the struggled between matter and meaning, stripping away at his figures in order to find a force to fill the void.
This exhibition offers a great insight into the creative movements in continental Europe in the 50’s and 60’s through the work of two groundbreaking but very different artists.
“Alberto Giacometti and Yves Klein: In Search of the Absolute” will be on view at Gagosian London, from April 27-June 11, 2016.