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Painted Turning Panels, 1952-53 - William Klein can be seen with the architect Mangiarotti, top right.

‘In 1952, Klein’s paintings were exhibited in Milan at the Galleria del Milione - which, by chance, led to his first real experiment in photography. He was preoccupied then with changing forms, with ominous geometrical shapes that could be used as murals. The Italian architect Mangiarotti saw Klein’s work and asked him to adapt it into reversible panels that could move or divide a room, creating many chance combinations and multiple patterns (above).

When they were finished, Klein took several photographs of them, and stumbled on photography. Quite by chance, he spun one of the panels on its pivot during a long exposure. The result gave him an idea. He thought if he could record the movement of these geometrical forms - record their trace in time - then he might discover a way of escaping the rut of what he calls “the same old paintings of circles, squares and triangles.” So he fixed up a little darkroom and tried to re-create the accidental time exposures on purpose. He cut out geometrical holes in black cardboard and projected light through them while moving the cut-out shapes at different speeds over photographic paper. The trace left on the paper was a geometrical time exposure. It was a picture. Klein had discovered for himself a way of literally drawing with light. The results weren’t objects recording themselves in white on black like Man Ray’s photograms. They were controlled projections in which shapes came out black (depending on the exposure of light) and their trace in time (the vision in motion) different shades of gray. When the results were photographed and blown up, they became photomurals’

John Heilpern, from the Aperture monograph William Klein, published 1981

Abstract photomurals can be viewed


Images marked * are currently included in the London Gallery exhibition.
All images © William Klein.

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© 2012 HackelBury Fine Art, Ltd. Copyright for all images is held by the respective artist or estate and they may not be reproduced in any form without express permission. All rights reserved.