Yves Klein’s International Klein Blue meets Oprah fashion

Fashion, as it so often does, just caught a rash from the art world. The color spreading through the cheeks of this season’s clothes is none other than International Klein Blue, the same unique hue dreamed up by the proto-postmodernist bad boy Yves Klein in 1962.

International Klein Blue, or IKB, is a deep, deep blue that’s totally man-made, but nevertheless seems somehow natural, a depiction of infinity in monochrome. Klein painted canvases with pure IKB, made sculptures with the color and smeared it on naked women, who then smeared it on big canvases. The color was meant to become a pure experience of pigment and nothing else, a transcendence of form and space.

But now IKB is on your mom’s purse. Oprah’s O Magazine has an amusingly highbrow/lowbrow synthesis of a slideshow featuring a variety of garments and accessories in something eerily close to International Klein Blue. “This happy hue is guaranteed to brighten your look,” the article reads, evoking Roland Barthes’ explorations of the meaninglessness of fashion language. The Walker’s excellent Off Center blog has more on the story, noting that Gucci has handbags in the color and the folks at Anthropologie are using the pigment like “fairy dust.” Kleintastic!

Imprint, the blog site of Print magazine, has a great essay on IKB’s rediscovery in fashion, as well as some anecdotes about the artist himself. An inveterate prankster, Klein once served IKB cocktails at an exhibition, drinks that ended up staining guests’ urine to a deep blue. The article also notes that IKB has had its cultural moments in the past, and tends to “jade our eyes” quickly.

But why not find out for yourself? The best way to experience IKB online is clearly through international-klein-blue.com, where a transcendent monochrome field is only a click away. The Museum of Modern Art owns a real live IKB monochrome, so you can check that out as well. Just look for the confused stares as visitors try to figure out why their scarf is the same color as that painting.

After a summer at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, the traveling Yves Klein retrospective has landed at the Walker Art Center (1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, Minnesota) until February 13, 2011.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly,...

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