William Klein

ABSTRACTION

William Klein

born in 1928 in New York (United States)

After initially training at the Sorbonne William Klein spent a brief period in the Paris studio of Fernand Léger. In Milan, in 1952, he exhibited both figurative paintings and abstract murals. Architect Mangiarotti commissioned him to paint a series of pivoting panels intended as room dividers, on which he created endless combinations of pattern and form. A chance discovery when documenting the panels was revelatory: capturing them while they were rotating introduced a new energy and dynamism into the geometric abstractions. Klein caught the blur of the spinning panels and painting morphed into kinetic sculpture, hard edges becoming fluid. 

The discovery that photography made it possible to conjure up an abstract and dynamic reality that was far freer and more flexible than the strict geometry of his painting led to many experiments in the darkroom. Countless photograms were the result. In 1954 Klein showed a number of these abstract photographs, along with his kinetic panels, in Paris at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. One particular series was created on the island of Walcheren in the Dutch province of Zeeland, where Klein discovered black tarred barns with bright white frames to their windows and doors. In the darkroom he reversed the colours, making the white elements black and vice versa. Later he discovered that Mondrian had lived on the island during the First World War, which led him to give the series the rigorously accurate title "Mondrian Real Life".