body painting + fire = Yves Klein’s FC-1

Today, for an artist to produce a finished work without having touched it is more common than you think.  But back in the very early 1960s, it was very much a novelty being explored by the French artist Yves Klein in a technique he called anthropometry.

The technique consisted in using nude female models as “live” brushes, dosing them with paint and dragging, rolling and impressing them onto his canvases.   Always the alchemist and experimenter, in the autumn of 1962, Klein began adding dangerous elements like fire to this process to produce what was to become known as the Fire-Color series.
Fire-Color Painting FC-1  – two ethereal female figures dancing amongst the blue, red and gold background – is considered to be Klein’s ultimate masterpiece and one of the last he produced before dying at the age of 34.
And while the resulting image of these ghostly figures is amazing and epitomizes what conceptual art is all about, the process of making this piece is mind-blowing: Klein started by dousing 2 live nude models with water and under his direction, they pressed onto the specially treated cardboard.  Once the models left their positions, Klein torched the surface leaving un-charred silhouettes where the bodies pressed the surface.  The models were then coated with pink paint leaving impressions of their breast and thighs on the surface.  Then they applied his well-known IKB blue to leave a final and lasting impression on the surface.  Lastly, Klein sprayed the work with pink and blue pigments with an airbrush to enhance the silhouettes.  This resulted in a masterpiece never touched by the artist himself!
Currently in a private collection, this is a contemporary work truly worth the time to inspect. Lucky for you, it will be easier to do so now that it’s coming up for sale as a highlight of the Post War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Christie’s New York  on Tuesday May 8th with viewings at Rockefeller Center from May 4-8 2012.
Image credit: Christie’s Images.  Yves Klein (1928-1962), FC-1, dry pigment and synthetic resin on panel executed in 1962.  Estimate US$30,000,000- 40,000,000;  (top) detail of the work; (bottom) full work.
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