Some artworks wallop me so that when I first glimpse them, they somehow manage to stop me cold and sear themselves on my memory. That’s what happened the first time I glimpsed this painting at the (SFMOMA) a few years ago. Finally I emailed the Collections department at the museum to ask about it and someone kindly informed me of the artist and title of the work.
At first glance it looks like just a bunch of blue smears and smudges across the canvas, right? But then you look closer and you realize what Klein had done: He’d painted his models’ bodies with a rich, deep hue now known as International Klein Blue and had them roll across the canvas in a kind of performance art, stamping themselves on the paper.
I find the effect mesmerizing and haunting, as if these phantom female figures are caught up in some kind of tempest. My favorite is the figure at the top-middle-right. The curves of the hips and belly and breasts are lovely.