New York

Doug Ohlson

Doug Ohlson continues to stain his canvases with large round shapes and the interstices between them with a lighter, sometimes contrasting color. Both result from the same process; the shapes are placed over a different color or are denser accumulations of a single color. The latter occurs in the largest painting in the show, Yellow (about 20’ long) in which denser yellow shapes are visible due to slightly paler, bluer interstices. The entire surface tends to merge into a continuous yellow light and the distinctions disappear altogether as you get close to the painting. The painting is both subtle and straightforward in a way that most of the others in this exhibition are not.

As with Poons, too many of the others depend on an isolated incident or shift of color that draws attention to one area of the painting, as if the remainder existed to provide contrast. This is particularly true in two paintings where gray or black shapes and interstices are relieved by an interstice or two of a brown or rust shade. In a third the black shapes change to rust for the entire bottom row of the painting. Three others deal with combinations of various grays and pinks: a series of flat opaque salmon pink shapes over slate gray; light gray over pink which shows through the shapes themselves as well as the interstices. In a small painting hot pink shapes are interrupted at the center by four lavender pink ones—a color which also fills the interstices in other parts of the painting. The structure here is loose, almost disintegrating and seems different from the rest. But it is generally apparent that Ohlson is attempting to achieve diversity within this constant structure and use of one or two colors. The diversity is not yet interesting; Ohlson’s color is either too pastel or thinly brooding. The paintings are better as they become more monochrome as in Yellow: this plays down the structure which seems simplistically naturalistic when the shapes are more discrete.

Roberta Smith