“May all that emerges from me be beautiful,” Yves Klein prayed, with what seems like utter sincerity, in the handwritten text of a reliquary-like work, enshrining blue and pink pigment and gold leaf in little Plexiglas boxes, from 1961. The last French artist of major international consequence, Klein, who died the following year, at the age of thirty-four, was entreating Rita of Cascia, a saint of lost causes, abused women, and baseball. He was likely unmoved by the last. Klein’s sport was judo, which he wrote a book about, after studying it at a prestigious school in Tokyo and earning a black belt. The refusal of the French Federation of Judo to recognize his Japanese diploma, in 1954, frustrated his career plans in that line, to the benefit of his commitment to art. Hanging in a gallery near the St. Rita piece, in a sumptuous retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington, D.C., is a drawing in which the word “humility” is repeated twenty times.
more from Peter Schjeldhal at The New Yorker here.