Why the Impressionists Went Gaga for Purple

Featured image: Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, effet de brouillard (1899–1903). Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

by Verity Babbs February 28, 2024


“I have finally discovered the true color of the atmosphere. It is violet. The open air is violet. I found it! […] In three years from now, everyone will be wearing purple!” said Claude Monet. But not everyone was as passionate about purple as Monet and the Impressionists. In fact, the group’s extensive use of the colour upset many critics, who accused the Impressionists of suffering from “Violettomania”.

The first true pigment—cobalt violet—was synthesized in 1859, and nine years later came the brighter and less toxic manganese violet. The Impressionists, who had their first exhibition in Paris in 1874, loved to use the shade in their mission to portray the true nature of light in their paintings. Some critics even put the group’s heavy use of violet down to optical and neurological conditions. The German ophthalmologist Richard Liebreich saw works by J.M.W. Turner—another fan—at London’s National Gallery, and asked whether the artist’s new work was “caused by an ocular or cerebral disturbance”.

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Dramatic Dualities and Emotional Entanglements Unfold in the Metaphysical Realm of Moonassi’s ‘Murmures’

Featured image: “Tie the knot” (2024), meok and acrylic on hanji, 102 x 142 centimeters Image © Moonassi

Pensive faces, ambiguous light sources, and mysterious spaces characterize the atmospheric drawings of Moonassi, whose solo exhibition Murmures at Vazieux Gallery delves into the surreal world of memory and emotions.

In black-and-white ink and acrylic, the Seoul-based artist cross-hatches figurative scenes onto Korean hanji paper, portraying deep contrasts, dualities, and tensions. Rich, black shadows reveal glowing hands and faces, exploring relationships between light and dark, awareness and the unconscious, presence and absence, and the known and unknown.

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Lachlan Turczan Transforms Water Patterns Into Liquid Sculptures With Cymatic Watergrams

Featured image: Images courtesy of Lachlan Turczan

LACHLAN TURCZAN EXPLORES VISUAL AND SONIC DIMENSIONS OF WATER

Water, light, and sound artist Lachlan Turczan crafts Cymatic Watergrams as otherworldly landscapes born within the confines of a darkroom. Through the exposure of vibrating water patterns onto photosensitive paper, Turczan unveils a hypnotic exploration of both the visual and sonic dimensions of this element. His camera-less prints document his Resonance Series, giving rise to cymatic sculptures that animate water as liquid art, revealing sculpture-like forms that pulsate and undulate in a rhythmic dance. As light passes through the intricate wave patterns and is captured on photosensitive paper, it becomes harnessed by the water which serves as a lens that focuses and disperses light according to the varying frequencies present within the liquid.

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Will Hutnick’s ‘Glitchy’ Paintings Investigate Gaps in Perception

Featured image: Will Hutnick, Weather Patterns (2024). Courtesy of Geary, Millerton, New York.

Every month, hundreds of galleries add newly available works by thousands of artists to the Artnet Gallery Network—and every week, we shine a spotlight on one artist or exhibition you should know. Check out what we have in store, and inquire for more with one simple click.

What You Need to Know: Opening February 24, 2024, artist Will Hutnick will be the subject of the solo exhibition “SATELLITE” at Geary in Millerton, New York. Featuring a range of new and recent paintings, the exhibition highlights Hutnick’s experimental practice, with each work containing various techniques such as using plants, stencils, and rollers to create complex layers that, together, blur the boundary between the abstract and representational. On view through April 7, the show mirrors the malleability of our present reality, particularly regarding the tensions between the digital and corporeal worlds. Speaking of these gaps in perception and understanding, Hutnick said, “There is something inherently queer about these glitch-type spaces that seem to be filled with potential; they’re shape-shifting, constantly reinventing themselves, not tied to the present but rather circumnavigating both the past and present.”

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Exploring the Unpredictably of the Human Body, Cristina Camacho Flays Symmetric Paintings

Featured image: Detail of “Cuerpo hambriento” (2022), acrylic on canvas, 66 x 52 inches Images © Cristina Camacho

Cristina Camacho likens canvas stretched across a skeletal frame to skin. Both a protectant and a site for expression, the flesh is one of many layers within the body that the artist peels back to reveal what lies beneath and within. “When I first started cutting the canvas, I was very interested in stopping seeing the canvas as the surface where the paint goes,” she tells Colossal.

In Carne, a series of symmetrical paintings sliced and sculpted into three-dimensional forms, Camacho expands on her earlier bodies of work that explore universal themes around female anatomy, shame, and healing. After being diagnosed with a rare disease and realizing her chances of becoming a mother were limited, though, she began to turn toward the personal, creating as part of reckoning with life-altering news. “My relationship with the work really changed because it became a tool for healing and for understanding how I was feeling both emotionally and physically with my symptoms and my fears,” she says. “The idea was to have a catharsis of my symptoms.”

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Stunning Oil Paintings That Look Like Aerial Views of Western Landscapes

Featured image: “Orb,” 2022

At first glance, Philip Govedare‘s art looks like your typical aerial landscape photograph. But upon close inspection, it’s revealed that these are actually carefully crafted oil paintings. Visually compelling, each piece highlights natural geographic features, as well as the manmade interventions that impact our planet.

Inspired by remote western landscapes, Govedare’s work isn’t about one specific place. Rather, he uses his memories, observations, and imagination to formulate an evocative landscape. In depicting different weather and lighting conditions, as well as geological formations, he’s able to evoke different emotions.

“While my paintings may elicit questions about our role in nature and the transformation (or desecration) of the earth’s surface and biosphere, they are, above all, a celebration of the beauty and mystery of the natural world,” Govedare tells My Modern Met. “I hope that my work inspires people to contemplate our place as an integral part of nature and appreciate all that is mysterious and transcendent in the world we inhabit.”

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Tony Bechara Creates Chaos With Grids

Featured image: Tony Bechara, “
Random 28 (Green version),” detail (2023), 
acrylic on canvas, 61 x 61 inches (all images © Tony Bechara, courtesy Lisson Gallery)

Tony Bechara is the least-known member of a loosely affiliated group of abstract artists who developed a meticulous approach to the phenomenology of color. Centered in New York around Hunter College, where Sanford Wurmfeld, Gabriele Evertz, Vincent Longo, and Robert Swain taught for many years, this group (active since at least the mid-1970s) has long been interested in color theory and issues of perception, going back to Josef Albers and Georges Seurat. One reason they have flown under the radar can be extrapolated from the art historian William Agee’s observation of Wurmfeld’s Cyclorama projects, an immersive experience in which the viewer is surrounded by color:

“A generation of art, permeated by conceptualism and theory, has devalued the power of the visual; like color itself, as well as art, painting that provides visual pleasure has been seen as too easy, too simple, lacking in “intellectual” depth. This is wrong, for it fails to understand that the mind and eye, the intellect and the senses, cannot be separated, and in fact are inextricably joined in one thinking, feeling body. Sensory intelligence and visual intelligence are fundamental to our being. The visual is profound, for it is how we see and thus how we comprehend the world.”

Although I knew of Bechara from conversations I had with Wurmfeld, I was not prepared for what I encountered in his self-titled debut exhibition at Lisson Gallery. Working in acrylic on square canvases ranging from 24 by 24 inches to 61 by 61 inches, he divides the entire surface into quarter-inch squares in which he paints one of 28 colors.

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Harriet Korman’s Nonchalant Rigor

Featured image: Harriet Korman, “Untitled” (2023), oil on canvas 24 x 30 inches

Harriet Korman’s paintings are simultaneously rigorous and nonchalant. Her palette is unlike anyone else’s. The 10 oil paintings in her current exhibition, Portraits of Squares at Thomas Erben Gallery, all dated 2022 or ’23 and measuring 24 by 30 inches, are dominated by different hues of brown, along with various reds, blues, greens, and yellows, and black and white. She never adds white to any of her colors and wants the surface of her shapes uniformly solid. The edges are irregular, as she does not use tape. The wildest form we see in this exhibition is a trapezoid. As might be expected from Korman’s faith in abstraction and painting’s power to stir up feelings in the viewer without being guided by language, all the works are untitled.

One painting from 2023 incorporates white as color, and a handful of others use black. These colors are assigned no more importance than any others, and each painting has a distinct palette, while her squares are different sizes and occupy different places in the picture plane, making every composition in this series of works unique. The show also includes an early square painting, “Untitled” (1979), on the wall behind the gallery desk. Its color combination (three greens, dark violet, and brown) hints at what is to come.

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Aurélie Hoegy’s Surging Rattan Forms Oscillate Between Interior Design and Sculpture

Featured image: Image © Gordon Spooner

Paris-based artist Aurélie Hoegy expertly conjures a seamless vacillation between movement, material, and environment within her dynamic rattan sculptures. Unrelenting ebbs and flows emanate through each form, akin to the beguiling dance of ocean waves. Wild Fibers is a series in which Hoegy harnesses the strength and malleability of the material, inviting a dialogue between gesture and object.

Having grown up amongst the vegetation of the tropical rainforest, Hoegy has always been fascinated by rattan. In a stroke of fate, a residency in Bali catalyzed her rediscovery of the fiber, prompting her to fall in love with its qualities once again and immerse herself in its history with the help of local artisans.

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When Book Covers Outshine Their Pages

Featured image: Left: Bernardino Ridolfi, In funere Caroli III Hispaniarum Regis Catholici oratio habita in sacello pontificio (1789), binding created by unknown artists, likely a congregation of Roman nuns; right: Ernest Lefébure, Embroidery and Lace: Their Manufacture and History from the Remotest Antiquity to the Present Day (1888), with binding created by May Morris

The Grolier Club — “America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles and enthusiasts” — is situated on the busy Upper East Side intersection of 60th Street and Park Avenue, a few blocks from the Plaza Hotel. The space is furnished in a conspicuously old-fashioned style, its foyer void of a single piece of art or furniture that could betray its presence in the 21st century. The institution houses a 100,000-volume library, and now showcased in its book-lined and wood-paneled exhibition hall are more than 100 silver, gilded, embroidered, miniature, and otherwise noteworthy editions lie shut in the room’s glass display cases. The aptly titled exhibition Judging a Book by its Cover, on view through April 13, spans 700 years of Western art history in a long overdue celebration of the highly specialized craft of bookbinding.

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