New York

Doug Ohlson

Fischbach Gallery

Doug Ohlson showed a group of impressive multi-part paintings at the Fischbach Gallery in May. The monochromed vertical panels (each 18“ x 90”, a 1:5 ratio maintained in the placement of squares within them) were hung about 2 or 3 inches apart to form continuous horizontal paintings, often spanning an entire wall of the gallery. Head on these paintings look like tightly structured, though still divided groups of modular units which seem to be organized into formal progressions as the squares inside the panels are shifted in pairs or trios from one position to another across the parts. A logicality is implied by this structuring which hardly exists and is even denied or made ambiguous, as the squares often disappear––seeming to float invisibly into and out of the tall, opaque shafts on which they are painted. Seen laterally the paintings take on another character and appear not as a geometrically organized composition but as fields of rich, glowing color, phased not by the white channels of the wall surface but by the shadowed edges of the stretched painted canvas panels. (All of these panels in one group share the same ground color and all the squares are of another hue though close in value to the ground.) This manner of reading the works from several angles applies effectively only to the more numerous-sectioned painting, such as Vinca, Melrose, or The Gates. I found these more successful than a smaller three-part work like See-Saw, for their spatial and visual latitude, as well as for a finer choice of color combinations, such as a deep teal-turquoise inscribed with lavender blue squares, or a russet brown combined with a muted carmine red.

In the paintings where fewer panels are used the studied—even cute—arrangement of the squares within the rectangular sections is more apparent for a superficiality which creeps into some of the larger series also. But although the more ambitious and larger paintings can look nearly as contrived as the smaller ones, their overall effect of chromatic expanse sustains an interest beyond the limitations of a too-artfully designed structure.

Emily Wasserman