January 30, 2014
SANTA FE, NM.- David Richard Gallery will present an exhibition of abstract paintings produced by Oli Sihvonen (1921-1991) from 1988 to 1991 that explores movement and visual perception in painting using repetition of shapes and lines as well as optical effects and color. The exhibition, “In Motion”, will be presented January 31 through March 8, 2014 with an opening reception on Friday, January 31 from 5:00-7:00 p.m. and a panel discussion on Saturday, February 1 from 2:00-3:30 p.m. featuring Allan Graham, Lilly Fenichel and David Eichholtz at the gallery located on 544 South Guadalupe Street, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501, phone 505-983-9555 in the Santa Fe Railyard Arts District.
The eleven paintings by Oli Sihvonen in this exhibition are probably the least known by the artist, but quite possibly his most important series of paintings as they are a culmination of decades of his thinking about and examining visual perception through the use of reductive forms and color. This is the first time that most have ever been exhibited and the first time all have been presented as an exploration of the subject of the artist’s two grants in the 1980s from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Gottlieb Foundation to create movement in paintings. They conflate the elements he developed in his better-known and earlier series, including “ellipses”, “grids” and “ladders”. However, throughout much of his career, Sihvonen wanted to capture time in paintings and he did so by focusing on the temporality of such things as movement, beat and rhythm. Interested in the mathematical principle of Set Theory, he applied that to painting, with his reductive elements each comprising a set. By repeating each element within a set, Sihvonen developed a beat and pattern that amplified the set. By combining different sets, he generated a sense of randomness that conveyed both the concepts of chance and time. Not only does one see in these paintings blocks of vibrant and angled color bracketing and defining thin black and white stripes and pinstripes, but the overall feeling is they are vibrational and full of energy. Compositions are activated by the lines with their alternating pattern and variations in width, creating both depth and movement from the layering of pattern on pattern and challenging visual perception.
Oli Sihvonen was an abstract painter who spent his career studying geometric shapes, surface texture and the adjacency of colors and how that combination influences one’s perception of color. After studying with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College, he lived in New Mexico for a year and then painted murals in Mexico. He then moved back to Washington, D.C. and New York, teaching at Hunter College and Cooper Union. Sihvonen returned to Taos, New Mexico in the late 1950s where, inspired by the light, serenity and heroic landscapes, he painted his large canvases and diptychs. While in New Mexico, his career took off on the east coast with his paintings included in seminal exhibitions such as “Geometric Abstraction In America”, 1962, The Whitney Museum of American Art; “The Formalists”, 1963, The Washington Museum of Contemporary Art, Washington, D.C.; and the legendary “Responsive Eye” in 1965 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, who also purchased one of Sihvonen’s “Elipse” paintings for their permanent collection. His artwork was featured in exhibitions at Betty Parson’s and he had a solo show at the Stable Gallery. Sihvonen returned to New York in 1967. Posthumously, Sihvonen’s paintings were featured in 2000 at SITE Santa Fe, NM in Allan Graham’s exhibition “As REAL As Thinking” and thereafter in numerous solo exhibitions celebrating his ellipses, grids and ladders at Canfield Gallery and James Kelly Contemporary in Santa Fe, NM and Sandra Gering Gallery, New York as well as an exhibition focused on the last four years of his work in 2011 at the Harwood Museum, Taos, NM.
Sihvonen was a recipient of grants from the Pollack-Krasner Foundation in 1988, Adolph and Ester Gottlieb Foundation and two from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1977 and 1967. His artwork is included in the permanent collections of Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, Rockefeller University, New York, NY, Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, TX, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, Ashville Art Museum, Ashville, NC, Albuquerque Museum of Art, Albuquerque, NM, Black Mountain College Museum, Ashville, NC, University of New Mexico Art Museum, Albuquerque, NM, Brandeis University, Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA, Harwood Foundation Museum of Art, Taos, NM, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, NM, New York State Art Collection, Albany, NY, Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, NM and Worchester Art Museum, Worchester, MA among others.