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Cited as the most popular color worldwide, blue incites joy and sadness, wonder and nostalgia, vitality and illness, nature and science. While this spectrum of meaning and effect embraces broad polarities, longing and transformation consistently attend contemporary artistic use of blue as mood and hue. Brilliant blue pigment derived from lapis lazuli stones has been prized by artists since Medieval times; Renaissance painters reserved blue to denote divinity; and the blue fabrics featured in 18th and 19th century portraits signaled exalted social or political status. “A quest for the infinite” is how 20th-century French artist Yves Klein described his obsession with the color blue: in 1958 he patented International Klein Blue.

The transformation of everyday materials, experience, and imagery animates this contemporary exploration of the chromatic, sensory, and psychological effects of blue as color and concept. Blue horizons illuminate utopian visions of nature and art in paintings by Hubert Noi Johannesson and Marta Kucsora; blue skies suffuse the dream-like visions in photographs and videos by Pra Pano Manga, Denise Grunstein, Dinh Q Le, Mark Fox, and Alain Declerq; blue is the hue or mood of obsession in works by Elmgreen and Dragset, Slater Bradley, Graham Dolphin, and others; and blue lends existential resonance to meditations on family, adolescence, and aging by Gaela Erwin, Anders Krisar, Pierre Gonnord, Trine Sondergaard, and Alessandra Sanguinetti. Patricia Piccinini’s wall sculpture alludes at once to the evolution of nature and 21st-century technology and the abiding longing to reach new, farther shores: Mare Cognitum—“the sea which has become known”—is the name given by scientists to a lunar sea bed. 

“The weight of the world is love,” repeat the three graces featured in Ragnar Kjartansson’s six-hour video, Song. Filmed in Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Art, the neo-classical setting aligns Kjartansson’s contemporary reverie with the ancient Greek ideal of beauty and truth. Here, truth emerges from endurance and idealization, offering a transformative immersion into the blue.