Doug Ohlson


c. 1976-77
oil on canvas
55 x 51 1/4 inches

The early years of Doug Ohlson’s career illustrate the art movements and styles popular in New York during the 1950s and 1960s. Ohlson moved from gestural black and white canvases reminiscent of Franz Kline, to stark contrasting works similar to Ellsworth Kelly, to stained canvases that show Mark Rothko’s influence. It was in a similar vein to the stained works that Ohlson landed on his signature style — structured bars and hazy nodes of radiant hues floating within, or later layered upon, deep fields of color. Ohlson’s color palette was subtle yet electrifying, and in his Dot Paintings the shapes seem to be balls of light or electricity mingling with one another within the enormous canvases. This painting from 1976–77 was created between the Dot Paintings (that were largely limited to circular forms) and the Poker Series (a body of work where the shapes become more rectangular and are pushed further to the edge of the canvas). A sublime example of his skill at pairing color, the gold, gray, and lilac hemispheres glow against the rich coral canvas, each heightened by its interaction with its surroundings. After graduating from University of Minnesota in 1961, Ohlson studied under Tony Smith at Hunter College, where he would later teach for 35 years. Ohlson’s paintings are in numerous institutions, including Brooklyn Museum, New York; Dallas Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington DC; Albright-Knox Gallery, Buffalo; and the Whitney Museum, New York.