Yves Klein’s monochrome blue paintings catch you wholly unprepared when you enter Leo Castelli’s Gallery. It is rather like the appalling experience of seeing a natural wonder for the first time, some gigantic marvel like the Grand Canyon.
Everybody has told you it is big, overpowering, incredible; but nobody mentioned that its size was measured by its immense, almost unbearable quiet. How silent! Its grandeur is one of absence. There is absolutely no noise.
Thus it is with Klein’s monochromes. The power comes from an absence. One measures 15 feet. The others are not small. They are all painted in that electrifying, idiosyncratic Klein-blue. Their surfaces compel the eye. You move in close to inspect these textures. You compare one with another. If you are lucky enough to be alone, you feel that insistent monochromatic blue invade you. No matter which way you turn, it is there. Some of the surfaces are pock-marked, some bubble, some undulate, others are blobby like tapioca.
Standing alone before this phenomena, your knees warn you that you may fall forward into the chasm, and you fear vertigo, so you turn, leave hastily, on the pretext of going to see Klein’s sculptures of obelisks and sponges, but there is no escape — that color blue, somewhere between cobalt and indigo; that blue of outerspace nothingness follows you, clings to the buds of your tongue, tastelessly or tastefully depending upon tolerance for the monomania of the controversial Klein’s “spiritual fluid.”
Roland F. Pease, Jr. Art International, June 1961