The great political divide that happened among the allies shortly after the end of WW II immediately led to the Cold war which lasted intermittently for more than three decades. Coinciding with the continuation of war through other means was the space race between the US and Soviet Union as a conquest that inspired a new generation of artists.
Obsessed with the concepts such as time, space, void, and light, since the late 1950s they created an incredible body of work that was at the same time formally and conceptually progressive as it set standards for further experimentation on the scale from Kinetic art and Conceptualism to early cyber art of the 1990s.
All of those tendencies couldn’t be imagined if there wasn’t for the pioneering activity of the legendary French innovator, Yves Klein. His considerations of the mentioned concepts were in sync with the criticism targeting the art system, meaning that this unprecedented figure left quite a mark in art history and is rightfully celebrated for his radicalism.
Now, the current exhibition Sky as a studio: Yves Klein and his contemporaries at the Centre Pompidou-Metz tends to emphasize the significance of Klein’s actions that apparently empowered his contemporaries to experiment including the proponents of the movement of New Realists, Japanese art group Gutai, the Italian Spatialists, as well as the artists gathered around the Nul group in Netherlands and ZERO in Germany.
Truth to be told, Yves Klein was one of the first postwar artists who embraced the void, the air, the sky, and the cosmos as constructive materials for reinventing art after the silence caused by the horrific atrocities of the war.
Since 1946, he started signing his name upside down while articulating the notion of the infinite space through his paintings, while Lucio Fontana and the Spatialists expanded this quest by synthesizing art and science, Piero Manzoni explored the concept of a limitless space in which and Otto Piene perceives art as the sensory medium used to establish a connection between man and the universe.
After Klein, all of the mentioned actors were prone to abandon materiality of the work of art, which was observed seen as an obstacle to freedom. For that reason, they were producing reduced monochromes centered on the gestures or actions such as the pierced paintings by Lucio Fontana or interactions of different elements in the light works by Otto Piene, Günther Uecker, and Heinz Mack.
Another significant element typical for the artists inspired by Klein was the body as the medium, the tool used to deliver considerations of physicality that move towards the metaphysical and cosmic such was the case with Klein's Anthropometries or reptile dances in the mud by Kazuo Shiraga.
The third common denominator that was present in their practices was the fascination with the idea of air architecture explored in experimental projects such as the hydro-spatial City of Gyula Kosice, the pneumatic theater by Manzoni, and New Babylon by Constant.
It seems quite clear that this exhibition is focused on Yves Klein, as the leading postwar figure, however, the same tends to reflect the social and political climate of the 1950s and 1960s on a global scale, a time when art movements coincided with each other in a swirl of outstanding creative energy.
Sky as a studio: Yves Klein and his contemporaries will be on display at Centre Pompidou-Metz from July 18, 2020 to February 1, 2021.
Featured images: Yves Klein - Grande Anthropophagie bleue, Hommage à Tennessee Williams, (ANT 76), 1960. Pure pigment and synthetic resin on paper mounted on canvas, 407 x 275 cm. Paris, Center Pompidou, National Museum of Modern Art © Estate of Yves Klein c / o Adagp, Paris, 2020 © Philippe Migeat - Pompidou Center, MNAM-CCI / Dist. RMN-GP; Yves Klein and Jean Tinguely - Excavatrice de l’espace, (S13), 1958 - Version WEB. Pure pigment and synthetic resin on metal disc, electric motor, metal legs, 17 x 20.5 x 25 cm © Succession Yves Klein c / o Adagp, Paris,  - Photo: Adagp Images © Adagp, Paris, 2019; Constant - Spatiovore, 1959. Plexiglass, metal, painted wood, 35 x 90 x 64 cm. Paris, Center Pompidou, National Museum of Modern Art © Constant / Adagp Foundation, Paris, 2020. Photo: © Center Pompidou, MNAM-CCI / Jean-Claude Planchet / Dist. RMN-GP. All images courtesy Centre Pompidou-Metz.