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  • David Eichholtz

Grids and Geometric Paintings by Oli Sihvonen

Attached please find a selection of geometric abstract paintings by Oli Sihvonen and a brief bio for the artist.

In the late 1960s, Sihvonen migrated from primarily large Elliptical shapes in pulsating contrasting colors to modifications based on smaller and clustered ellipses combined with a reductive grid or hard edge bands of color. These paintings were referred to as the “Domino Series” and “Film Series", respectively.

Later, through the 1970s and into the 80s, Sihvonen focused on the hard edge, grid-inspired structures and derivations thereof that he referred to as “Ladders”. All of this was part of his bigger vision to create the sense of motion in a static, two-dimensional picture plane. The Ladder paintings were rooted in color theory, just like the Ellipses, to provide vibrational color combinations that excite the eye and make the brain more susceptible to illusory and optical effects and challenge visual perception. The Ladders also provided repetition and rhythm, which Sihvonen thought essential ingredients for creating the sense of movement, based on his observations of dance and music. He also wanted to create a certain amount of spontaneity and randomness in his paintings, again to both activate the eye and mimic what he observed when humans are in motion—a high degree of unpredictable and impromptu gestures. Thus, he fragmented the Ladder structures and recombined and layered them with entire Ladders at various angles.

Enjoy the evolution and variations of the Ladder paintings presented below in chronological order.

Please contact the Gallery if you would like prices or additional information and images.

Oli Sihvonen Untitled (148), 1973

Acrylic on canvas 48" x 54"

This painting straddles Sihvonen’s Ladder series and the stripe paintings that he referred to as 3 x 3 and 4 x 4 series.

Oli Sihvonen Untitled (136), 1973

Acrylic on canvas 96" x 54 “

This can be hung vertical or horizontal.

Oli Sihvonen Untitled (104L), 1974

Acrylic on canvas 72" x 30“

This can be hung vertical or horizontal.

Oli Sihvonen Untitled (91A), 1974

Acrylic on canvas 48" x 22“

Oli Sihvonen Untitled (208), 1981

Oil on canvas 70" x 60“

This is a spectacular painting with the large blocks of color, hot colors and very textured surface.

Oli Sihvonen Untitled (44), 1983

Oil on canvas 55" x 37“

Oli Sihvonen Ladder (9), 1984

Oil on canvas 68" x 72"

Oli Sihvonen Ladder (164), 1985

Oil on canvas 40" x 36“

All Artworks: Copyright © The Oli Sihvonen Trust

About Oli Sihvonen: Oli Sihvonen, an abstract, hard edge painter, spent his career studying the interaction of geometric shapes, surfaces and the adjacency of colors and how those combinations influence visual perception. He was born in Brooklyn, New York and after World War II studied at Black Mountain College where Josef Albers was a major influence and source of inspiration. After Black Mountain he lived in New Mexico and then painted murals in Mexico for a year. Sihvonen moved back east to Washington, D.C. and New York, teaching at Hunter College and Cooper Union. He returned to New Mexico in the late 1950s, inspired by the light, serenity and heroic landscapes, he painted his large canvases and diptychs in Taos. During the New Mexico years, 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, New York; The Formalists, 1963, The Washington Museum of Contemporary Art, Washington, D.C.; and the legendary The Responsive Eye in 1965 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, with the latter also purchasing one of Sihvonen’s Elipse paintings for their permanent collection. His artwork was featured in exhibitions at Betty Parson’s and a solo show at the Stable Gallery. Sihvonen returned to New York in 1967 where he continued to explore geometry and optical effects in painting and their impact on visual perception.

Oli Sihvonen was a recipient of grants from the Pollack Krasner Foundation in 1988, Adolph and Ester Gottlieb Foundation in 1985 and two from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1977 and 1967.


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 Worchester Art Museum, Worchester, MA Click on the following tags to view related posts:

Hard edge, geometric abstraction, Op Art, visual perception, color theory, Color Field, Post Painterly Abstraction

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