Tag Archives: Yves Klein

Jeff Jones and the 1981 Topps baseball card

At present, I am particularly excited by “bad taste.” I have the deep feeling that there exists in the very essence of bad taste a power capable of creating those things situated far beyond what is traditionally termed “The Work of Art.” I wish to play with human feeling, with its “morbidity” in a cold and ferocious manner. —Yves Klein

The 1981 Topps baseball card isn’t a particularly exciting visual affair. The most prominent feature of the card front is the ball cap that’s at the bottom of the card. Player photos have a color outline that gives way to a thin white border with the Topps logo placed in a small baseball in the right corner. Of course, it’s just a baseball card. Most people see them as worthless pieces of ephemera for children to collect, toss around, and discard. I always get a kick out of people who say, “well, where’s the art in that?” Despite the term “art” being static and self-appointed to each individual, I believe if you have an iota of intelligence, an active imagination, and the ability to uncover the pure plane of expression, you can find art and emotion in almost ANYTHING.


There is nothing remarkable about this card from a baseball standpoint–all things considered, the player represented had a rather unremarkable career–but what really struck me was the marvelous blue background; loosely reminding me of Yves Kleins’ painting “IKB 191.” (right) This color makes me feel a myriad of emotions– the lapis lazuli jogging memories of my own Catholic school upbringing and subsequent guilt and confusion. I recall that the Virgin’s robes were almost always painted this color because of its brilliance, and the stone was also semi-precious making it a “must-have” for artists of the Renaissance and Baroque periods as it represented wealth, splendor, and significance– ultimately and deceptively accruing more power and influence to the church that bathed itself in gruesome martyrology.


Centuries ago, in my fourth-grade weekly mass, my pal David was feeling diabolical and dared me not to swallow the thin, wafer-like Body of Christ, but to keep it still in my mouth so we could satisfy our boyhood curiosity and inspect the talismanic item after I returned to the pew. (What we expected to see is still a long-lost mystery) I eventually brought the specimen back only to drop the now mushy wafer on the ground because of haste and overall blood- rushing-to-the-brain nervousness. As always, an internally-heroic busy body ratted me out and the congregation was stopped as I was dragged to the front of the altar in front of 100’s before being berated by the priest in a back room about the divine significance of the savior’s body part (which one I wonder?) being dropped on a dusty floor. There was a closet full of priestly robes, and between thoughts of the robes being similar to Bruce Wayne’s closet and getting eternally grounded by my parents, I was just simply red-faced embarrassed. To my astonishment, my parents were never informed of my derelict behavior and I emerged from the situation relatively unscathed. Ah, the life of a daydreamer and heathen!…by way of an aging man’s fading mind motivated by an inconsequential piece of cardboard.