Souls Aflame: Untitled Color Fire Painting

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Untitled Color Fire Painting, Yves Klein, 1962
Souls Aflame : Fire in Art
Curated By LIBBY ROHR

Yves Klein was by far the coolest, craziest, bluest post-World-War-II Frenchman ever to hit the art scene. Most famous for his monochromatic paintings in his own trademarked cerulean color. This particular painting looks like nothing else I've ever seen of his. It lacks the same crisp quality and shocking color that I associate with his work, and instead invokes a calming feeling. Painted just months before his death, Klein's style changed as he shifted towards an obsession with the natural and fire in particular rather than his usual use of the human body. Even when taking into account of this change in style, no other work looks remotely like this in composition and color. Like so many of the other works with fire, it circles around the center. Organized in a way, but soft at the edges and incredibly freeing to look at. When I look at this mark of flame, it reminds me of the soft, flowery wings of a moth fluttering by a streetlamp at night. The purity in the white color is beautiful and ethereal to a certain extent. Unlike so many of Klein's other works, I would call this painting a true manifestation of peace in art. 

So, you may be asking, what does this blob of serenity have to do with fire other than the fact that it's slightly shaped like candle flame? 

It's in the amazing creation of this work. At this point in his life, in order to experiment with a new medium, he got access to work in a fire safety testing facility, and for the last two to three years of his life, most of his works were created, at least in part, through the use of actual fire to scorch his canvasses. Even in the white color, the burn adds a glowing color and texture to the work that attracts me so much to this particular work. The painting itself is soft and streaked and breathing like the best of the fire paintings I've chosen. The concentric oval pattern pulls your eyes to the scorched center and back out again, pulsing like real flame. What sets this work apart from the others is that so many infernos are cloaked in chaos and destruction, where this shows fire as a creating, sheltering force. Unlike so many artists, it shows the comforting, purifying, almost holy, side of fire, connecting the art to the soul within.

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