Dutch-born Willem de Looper (1932-2009) arrived in Washington as a young man and worked for many years at the Phillips Collection, one of the wellsprings of the Washington Color School. By the late 1960s, he was employing the techniques pioneered by Morris Louis (who died in 1962), using multiple washes of thin acrylic pigment to produce rich tints and billowing forms. Louis called one of his series “Veils,” and “Purple Veil” is among the four large de Looper canvases in Hemphill Fine Arts’ “Paintings 1968-72.”
Louis’s “Veils” are mostly dark, offering only glimpses of the vivid colors they contain. The work in the de Looper show is brighter and more immediate. All four paintings (originally shown at the Jefferson Place Gallery, another Color School landmark) are keyed to a single hue yet encompass many others. They’re all-over paintings, without the areas of blank canvas common in the work of de Looper’s predecessors. The effect is fluid and enveloping, with a sense of depth and movement. The ideology of late-’50s “post-painterly abstraction” is fading in these pictures, yielding to a more sensuous outlook.