Paintings from the Sixties
24 APRIL - 24 MAY 2003

Double Matrix - Pink, Green, 1968
Oil on canvas
Two panels; 84 x 84 inches each


Red, Orange, Two Blues, 1969
Oil on canvas
58 x 64 inches

Dialogue Blue Orange, 1967
Oil on canvas
72 x 64 inches


Red Landing, 1963
Oil on canvas
48 x 64 inches

Dialogue Spring, 1960
Oil on canvas
26 x 20 inches

Sandra Gering Gallery is honored to present the first exhibition in New York since 1983 of paintings by OLI SIHVONEN. These "Ellipse" paintings from the 1960s represent a view onto the brilliance and vitality of Sihvonen's not widely known yet exceptional body of work.

Oli Sihvonen was born in Brooklyn in 1921. A defining moment in his artistic career came when, after returning from service in World War II, Sihvonen decided to attend Black Mountain College as a student of Josef Albers. Albers' Bauhaus teachings were deeply influential to Sihvonen's intellectual and visual approach to art. In 1956 Sihvonen brought his Modernist sensibility to the West, moving to New Mexico for over 10 years and becoming associated with the Taos Moderns. He returned to New York in 1967 where he lived until his death in 1991.

Sihvonen's considerable talent was widely recognized in the 1960s, a period that included numerous exhibitions and acquisitions by high-profile collections. Most notably, Sihvonen had solo exhibitions at the extremely influential Betty Parsons Gallery and The Stable Gallery. Among the landmark museum exhibitions in which his work was included were: Geometric Abstraction in America at the Whitney, The Formalists at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Washington, and The Responsive Eye at the Museum of Modern Art.

During this same decade, Sihvonen painted an extensive series of works with either one or multiple ellipse forms set against a field of a contrasting hue. Following is an excerpt from Ken Canfield's 2002 essay about the Ellipse paintings:

An ellipse in geometry is described as a conic section — the angular intersection of a cone and a plane. Sihvonen began with the simple idea of a conic section within a rectangle, a concept that lent itself to subtle expressions of tension and dissonance. The resulting paintings depicted ellipses in what Sihvonen called a "surround". To Sihvonen, the "surround" conceptually displaced the traditional idea of background: "An object is among or within its environment, just as a shape does not reveal the form of an object and color is not limited to its physical dimensions." …When Sihvonen left New Mexico for New York City in 1967, the large Ellipse paintings traveled with him. There, in his loft studio on Grand Street, he completed the series, including what may be the last and largest, the 10' 9" x 21' 6" multi-panel painting commissioned by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York. …Totally non-referential, Sihvonen's paintings possess an immediacy and clarity that is universal in its appeal. They create a chromatic environment uniquely emanating its own light and color.
This exhibition was organized with the generous collaboration of Canfield Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. It would not have been possible without the support of the Sihvonen Estate, or without the enthusiasm and assistance of Craig Cornelius.

Selected collections:

Museum of Modern Art, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Dallas Museum of Fine Art, TX
Albuquerque Museum of Art, NM
Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe
Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA
University of Michigan Art Museum, Ann Arbor
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
J.P. Morgan Chase Bank, New York City, Athens, Copenhagen
Citibank, New York

Selected exhibitions:

Geometric Abstraction in America, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1962
Solo exhibition, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, 1962
The Formalists, Institute of Contemporary Art, Washington, DC, 1963
Solo exhibition, The Stable Gallery, New York, 1963
Annual, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1965
The Responsive Eye, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1965
Recent Acquisitions, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1966
30th Biennial Exhibition, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1967
Recent Acquisitions, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1967
Plus X Minus: Today's Half Century, Albright-Knox Museum, Buffalo, 1968