New York: “Audible Presence: Fontana Klein Twombly” at Dominique Lévy Through November 16th, 2013

September 26th, 2013

Cy Twombly, Sunset (1957), Image Credit: Tom Powel Imaging / Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York.

Twenty minutes of continuous, monotone sound, followed by twenty minutes of absolute silence; such is the premise for Yves Klein’s 1949 Monotone Symphony, a powerful piece considered to stand at the core of the artist’s pioneering conceptual ouevre and one that bore remarkable influence on fellow artists Cy Twombly and Lucio Fontana, each of which drove their own sense of dichotomous action on canvas and sculpture, defining the continued explorations of abstraction and concept in post-war art.

Yves Klein, Pluie Bleu (S 36) (1961), Image credit Tom Powel Imaging, © Yves Klein, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris 2013.

It’s this conception that sits at the heart of of the opening exhibition for Dominique Lévy’s new Uptown space.  Pulling together works from the trio of aforementioned artist’s, Audible Presence explores the variations of space and depth, action and inaction, color and line that ultimately unify these three artists, all arranged in the light-soaked rooms of 909 Madison Avenue.  “We felt that the dialogue between the art is as important as the art itself,” Lévy commented during her opening remarks at the press preview this past Monday, and true to form, the space’s intimate, mid-size rooms take full advantage of its large windows and carefully selected collection of pieces.  Placed in close proximity, the work of each artist moves flawlessly, opening new perspectives into the work of the others, while remaining free for visitors to linger on each’s subtly complex surfaces.

Dominique Lévy Makes Opening Remarks, via Daniel Creahan for Art Observed

This lingering action is a main priority throughout the show in the show, a willing engagement with the vast, often minimal canvases (Klein in particular, with his signature shade of blue on hand in a number of works), that allow the viewer to truly appreciate the act of mark-making itself.  It’s from this initial engagement with the materials, the broken silence of the artist’s work, that the piece is initially opened, and which the artist leaves afterwards for the viewer.  Running along Twombly’s Untitled (Bolsena), one is increasingly aware of the delicate shades of grey that run across the piece, all bisected by his abstracted musical score.  Each inflection, each stroke of paint gradually takes on its own life, its own rhythm against the rest of the work, creating a series of forces and intensities, directions of action that each give their own weight to the final canvas.  In Klein’s Untitled Blue Monochrome, for instance, the blue pigment’s application creates lumps and veins, hills and valleys that serve both as a testament to the work’s creation, and to the new abstraction these artist’s pioneered, exploring new potentials of depth and form within delicate variations and modifications.

Yves Klein, Untitled Blue Monochrome (IKB 100) (1956), Image credit © Yves Klein, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York ADAGP, Paris 2013 Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York.

It’s in this same spirit that Fontana slashed open his canvases, an action that opened the work up to questions of depth and space, relations of front and back, and the act of light on the work itself.  A simple action, the cut into the canvas signals a new shift towards the canvas itself as a form, not only open to deconstruction, but to modifications that present it as much in the world as it is a representation of it.  A similar action is attempted in Concetto Spaziale, Natura with decidedly different results.  Cleaving a round ball of terra cotta in half, Fontana destroys the fullness of his own creation, the act of interference become an exploration of contrast.  Empty space is bound up in the fullness of the form, while emphasizing the essential mutability of the work itself.

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Bolsena) (1969), Image Credit Tom Powel Imaging Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York

Here, the artist’s creation is an act of dichotomy, particularly in the works of Twombly, Fontana and Klein.  The act of sound gives itself over to silence, fullness over to emptiness, and form over to abstraction, eventually defined only by their own duration and persistence, before fading from view, or reaching the limits of the canvas.  It was these exchanges of form and structure that so endlessly fascinated Klein when he wrote the Monotone Symphony, a space where absolute action must eventually give way to its counterpart, all before meeting again at the conclusion, somewhere in the middle.

Audible Presence closes on November 16th.

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Attese (1966), Image credit Tom Powell Imaging Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York


Audible Presence
(Installation View), Courtesy Dominique Lévy Gallery

Cy Twombly, By the Ionian Sea (1988), Image Credit Tom Powel Imaging Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York.

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, Il Cielo di Venizia (1961), Image credit Photo © Ellen Page Wilson Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York

Audible Presence (Installation View), Courtesy Dominique Lévy Gallery

Yves Klein, Untitled Blue Sponge Sculpture (SE 161) (1959) Image credit: © Yves Klein, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York  ADAGP, Paris 2013 Courtesy Dominique Lévy, New York.

—D. Creahan

Read more at:
Dominique Lévy Gallery
Art in America