Brooklyn, NY

February 15 – March 22, 2020

Press Release


Opening Friday, Feb. 14, 6-9PM

On View: Feb. 15 – March. 22 
Hours: Saturday & Sunday 1-6 PM 
Closing: Sunday, March 22, 4-6 PM 

Liz Ainslie, Chris Bertholf, Sam Bornstein, Lindsay Burke, Daniel Davidson, Georgia Elrod, Stacy Fisher, Laura Frantz, Sarah Fuhrman, Alexis Granwell, Eric Hibit, Amanda Rose Hunter, Matt Jones, Tricia Keightley, Kimia Kline, Sarah McDougald Kohn, Emily Noelle Lambert, Elisa Lendvay, Leonora Loeb, Stuart Lorimer, JJ Manford, Keisha Prioleau-Martin, Vicente Matte, Steve Mykietyn, Ben Pritchard, Elisa Soliven, Melissa Staiger

Underdonk is pleased to present Purple, a plus-one group show comprised of the collective members, and their respective invitees.

Purple is the color of outliers, punks, radicals, nonconformists, Expressionist painters, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, Haight-Ashbury, Jimi Hendrix, Alice Walker, queer activists, teen goths, and anyone letting their freak flag fly.

Swiss Expressionist painter Johannes Itten, who was also a writer, teacher, color theorist, and member of the Bauhaus, writes on the expressive values of purple, (also known as violet) in his famous book, The Elements of Color: “In purple, the color of the cardinals, temporal and spiritual power are united. As the antipode of yellow, or consciousness, violet is the color of the unconscious – mysterious, impressive, and sometimes oppressive, now menacing, now encouraging, according to its contrast. When violet is present in large areas, it can be distinctly terrifying…Violet is the hue of piety, and when darkened and dulled, a dark superstition. Lurking catastrophe burst forth from dark violet. Once it is lightened, when light and understanding illuminate dark piety, delicate and lovely tints enchant us…Chaos, death, and exultation in violet, solitude and dedication in blue violet, divine love and spiritual dominion in red violet. Many plants have light violet shoots, with yellow centers.”

For Itten, purple contains a powerful expressive force that ranges from the menacing to the divine. While certain association with the color, as with any color, can arguably be universally generalized, the artists in Purple are banded together in order to exemplify the color’s subjective dimension. The associations with purple, and its incorporation into the various artworks displayed herein, range widely in terms of expression and emotion, tint and shade, deeply personal and mainstream cultural, ancient and modern, queer, noble, liminal, magical, and moody.

The following is a collection of thoughts from several of the exhibiting artists:

Ben Pritchard: In my painting color has to fulfill two roles it must first emanate from a necessity in the self and it must have a quality of clear intention and expression outward towards the viewer. Color and by extension light and how it operates as an honest force towards the world is both the subject and an ongoing pursuit towards my future Painting..I think of color in paint as a direct, specific, personal expression that develops from an experiential intuition. I love dioxozine because it is like outer space and Cobalt purple is the rarest, delicate and most precious pigment.

Melissa Staiger: Purple is warmer than blue and I have a light version of it painted in our bedroom. I think of the smell of lavender and it’s freshness. Cool and Warm, that shiny blue-purple star sticker as a kid, the only color in the pack worth it.

Vicente Matte: There is one aspect of the purple color that has always captivated me: its relationship with authority. Few colors, in human history, have had such a close and radical link with power and human hierarchies, as the purple has had. Often the use of this color was prohibited by law; In ancient Rome the use of purple was reserved only to certain authorities until Imperial Rome era was reached where only the emperor could use it; In Japan, purple was associated with the nobility, and in China, despite being initially a color that was not highly valued because it did not belong to the sacred colors, it eventually ended up being banned and its use restricted only to royalty. The Old Testament also names purple as a color for the religious rite. So it has always intrigued me, why purple always ended up becoming the color of emperors, kings, nobles and priests? How powerful is this color so that in Imperial Rome, its appearance in nature was considered a sign of good omens and the birth of a new emperor of a prosperous kingdom?

Liz Ainslie: Purple made me uncomfortable. It was the color of so many synthetic items that defined my tween years: cheap rollerblades, giant windbreakers, tiny erasers. It was the alternate femme-color, second fiddle to pink. I sustained my distaste of purple later in life and omitted it from my paintings for at least five years. Slowly I decided I had to grapple with it, it seemed wrong to never tackle it’s moodiness, lacking both the placidity of blue and the rage of red. Now I relish the ambiguity of mauve, violet, fascia, and lavender. A purple line consumes the well-behaved surface. Purple awkwardness has become a challenge instead of a curse.

Sam Bornstein: 
Mauve is deathly and has no friends.
Fuchsia means it’s disposable and fun.
Periwinkle is a small animal from a children’s book about mushrooms.
Grape is inferior to Jam and Wine.

Georgia Elrod: Purple is merging, purple exists in the liminal color-space of the in-between, it is twilight and dust in the air. Politically Purple is subversive– yet Purple is also Barney.

JJ Manford: You cannot mix up a magenta from red and blue, as you might logically think. I tell my intro to color and design students to buy Magenta straight from the tube, Holbein acrylic gouache. Such a beautifully vibrant color. Before I thought of it a magenta, it was hot pink. These days, I would say “hot pink” is a super saturated red violet, but purple is tricky, because it can be hot or cold, like green. Like green, it’s also a threshold color, transitioning from warm to cool, interior to exterior.

Emily Noelle Lambert: Purple from the first light haze to the deepest dark. I had a year when I would only wear purple– coat, hat, gloves all purple. “An Amethyst Remembrance”…from Emily Dickinson:
I HELD a jewel in my fingers
And went to sleep.
The day was warm, and winds
Were prosy;
I said: “‘T will keep.”

I woke and chid my honest fingers,–
The gem was gone;
And now an amethyst
Is all I own.

Elisa Soliven:  A purple dress, shirt and purple shoes, but not all at once. Purple is devotion, mysterious, earthy, auspicious, and sultry. Purple is plums on a summer day.  Purple is enigmatic and not easily overlooked.