"I am a slave to that last gasp when the wine-server says, 'Have another,' and I can't" (Omar Khayyam)
We have it on the authority of former child star turned historian of the ultra-left Christophe Bourseiller that Guy Debord visited Yves Klein in his studio one day in early 1957, with a view to writing a catalogue essay for a forthcoming exhibition of IKB monochromes. As a gesture of goodwill, Klein asked Debord to take his pick of the works in the studio as payment. Debord scanned the room and selected the smallest canvas he could find. When the artist enquired as to why he hadn?t chosen a more substantially proportioned work, Debord replied that he merely wanted something he could fit into his duffle coat. The catalogue essay was, it should be added, not forthcoming.
Given that both men are now dead, the veracity of this tale of unreciprocated potlatch can never be firmly established. Guy Debord and Yves Klein certainly moved in the same circles and shared many friends. They even showed together in the First Exhibition of Psychogeography that took place in the avant-garde Belgian gallery Taptoe at around the same time, although according to fellow exhibitor Ralph Rumney, after a dispute about where to meet on the railway platform, Debord didn't even turn up; Rumney himself is, of course, also dead.
Debord and his situationist comrades would report a year later that Klein had joined the Jesuit, Michel Tapié at the head of a wave of fascism making headway in France. But an interview in Le Monde last year with Constant who is, happily, still with us, attests to the fact that Debord did indeed have a small blue Klein in his apartment and, moreover, that he seems to have liked it. There was, unfortunately, no account of its provenance.
In any case, it's a good story.
This suite of paintings is the hardly very honourable cover for a host of bad intentions. As the old saying goes, in a world of decomposition we can test our forces, but we cannot deploy them. All the water in the sea is nothing more than a distant echo of those moments past and perhaps those to come when the search for the Northwest Passage, for the trail into a new life, explodes in an orgy of radical creativity more beautiful than any painting. In love and struggle, it's all the same: the world still needs to be astonished.
"Outside, the consul paused, turning "No se puede vivir sin amar, were the words on the house."
(Malcolm Lowry, Under the Volcano)
- Reuben Keehan, April 2004
Image above: Reuben Keehan
Stamping Around Brian Thompson
A million parts can form one painting, or the painting can be split into a million parts, either way the parts dependent on each other's placement: a contingent situation that is "true only under existing [and] specific conditions".
The Picture at the centre of the painting is the same but different, it develops by mere elaboration (playfulness). Accumulation does not have to lead to great differences - though it may, slight shifts are all that is necessary. A body of influence moves this way, but it can also move that way towards fruition - the underlying motivation is minimal and cumulative, and not necessarily virtuosic.