September 30, 2010

Leap into the Void

Leap into the Void, by Yves Klein

One of the most profound photographs of the last century was made by conceptual artist Yves Klein. A bold retrospective of his life’s work was recently on exhibit at the Hirshhorn Museum here in Washington, DC.

Hung at both the entrance and the exit of the show, were two nearly identical framed prints of this intriguing image depicting the young artist as he appears to swan-dive from the top ledge of a high stone wall, down towards the hard paved street below. It is an astonishing picture even by today’s standards, and it must have been truly shocking in its day. No other photographer then or now has done anything quite like it.

What has been so fascinating for me is trying to understand what inspired him to create this work in the first place. The technical manipulation of the image is masterful – no Photoshop masks here! To this day there is some debate as to whether the photo was real or staged. (Hint, comparing the two prints from the show ought to put the kibosh on that.) Regardless, the theatrics of the composition are merely a means for Klein to convey the true essence of his mission: to dive deep into the void of one’s own reality, and leave behind the representational world.

. . . . .

As I stood inches away, studying the print in its entirety, a thought occurred to me. So many photographers spend entire careers producing hundreds of photographs in pursuit of that one single image that might sum up a lifetime’s work. Yves Klein produced only one photograph in his short life, and that one was all he ever needed to do.

September 19, 2010

Happy Frank Zappa Day!

Frank Zappa Bust

(AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

Hey, what’s new in Baltimore?