Lothar Quinte’s “Blue Pulsar”, Joan Miró’s “Bleu III”, and Yves Klein’s “Sponge Forest” – all have the same inward pull, the same mesmerizing blue. Quinte’s painting, which I saw at the MALBA in Buenos Aires this past August, forms a blue orb on a blue plain, sitting atop a thin red line that thickens, slightly, as it touches the orb’s bottom curve. And in Paris’s Centre Pompidou, Miró’s piece is for falling in, one of three panes of blue with the tiniest red dot and ever so slightly larger black dot, each flung toward the side, becoming swallowed up. Klein, whose work is on view at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, created his own peculiarly intense shade of blue, patented as International Klein Blue. He wanted immaterial art – paintings made with fire, cities of air. He was preoccupied with voids. Yet his shade of blue throbbed.
Elsewhere, at the Knoxville Art Museum, there is an exhibit more tangible. David Bates, an artist from Texas, did a series of monumental portraits documenting the aftermath of Katrina. Here there is no calm immaterial blue, but charred gray and red-yellow eyes and furrowed brows – devastation reflected in muddled flood waters. He began the series while watching the storm unravel on television and then travelled to New Orleans when it became possible to do so.
Both exhibits compel in their own ways. Bates focuses intently on pain while Klein tried to evaporate raw nerves. Both exhibits continue until February 13, if you find yourself in Knoxville or Minneapolis.