Doug Ohlson 2015
Vertical planes the color of roses and cherries and crimson rest inside a 68 x 58 inch cube (Mayday, 1993). Along the edges, swathes of a buttery orange seem to spill from beneath the canvas. An elongated box of black knifes through the left center of the composition recalibrating the perceived space of the painting. The illusion is that the cooler darker hue engenders ‘heat’ from this glorious assortment of colors within the painting’s red field. Or perhaps the real light-generating engine resides in Ohlson’s meticulous juxtaposition of rough-edged brush strokes and smooth as glass surfaces on display throughout the canvas.
In a tour de force of color-driven constructs, the artist’s balance / counterbalance of warm to cool, hot to scalding or cool to coolest is deployed to glorious effect in this selection of works from the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
Though Ohlson (1936 – 2010) spent almost the entirety of his professional life in New York City, he grew up in rural Iowa and worked on the family farm. Throughout his youth, the 4am wake-up call afforded him ample opportunity to study the shifting incandescence of sunrise and upon his return from school, the rhythmic retreat of light in sunset. The expansive spaces and unapologetic color of his artworks seem driven by a ferocious intellectual curiosity (he did not continue in the family business) and an innate understanding of light and time - a lifetime’s worth of morning light wrapped into the conversation of each canvas.
The artist’s work has been widely exhibited and is included in public and private collections, most notably the Whitney Museum, the Metropolitan Museum and the National Gallery. A long time faculty member of Hunter College, Ohlson was the recipient of numerous awards/grants including a Guggenheim fellowship, the New York State Council on the Arts Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant.
This marks his second exhibition with the gallery.