Apr 06 2019


7:00 pm - 10:00 pm



Olive Ayhens: Organic Complexity Opening Reception


My work is inspired by special places I find myself in, from my native California to the iconic American West, from Spain with its Moorish architecture to the urban gridlock of New York City. The work included in this exhibition is a selection of works on paper spanning a broad time period, the earliest completed in 1989 and the latest in 2018. My work is a life’s journey depicting both environments and personal relationships—paintings connected in series that transition into new series but remain interconnected.


Color is my first language. Paintings frequently evolve from a special sense of place and the transformation of environments in my own quirky ways. Sometimes there is a political/ecological subtext, but ever present is the love of paint itself—with layering it, with exploring color relationships, with building textures thick and thin. I have fun with personification as well as improbabilities of scale.

I was a recipient of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s World Views Residency at the World Trade Center. Paintings while in residence reflect the fabric-like patterns of architecture and gridlock. The experience of observing NYC from a highly elevated viewpoint is similar to studying an organism under a microscope. My move to NYC from San Francisco inspired a series I refer to as The Aesthetics of Pollution. This theme deals with nature versus the urban assault, gridlock in streams, streams returning to displace streets, with extinct or endangered animals like bison pitted against skyscrapers. Works following that residency focus on the luminosity of the night, the movement of bridges, complicated spooky images under expressways and improbable geysers on the roads.

My latest inspiration is my Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn, and the monumentality of the anchors and suspension of the superb engineering of the neighborhood’s bridges influences my newest works. These interior and exterior themes can be very broad. The boundaries between inside and outside spaces become blurred, with images intruding into and overlapping one another—distorted perspectives that arouse intrigue.

– Olive Ayhens, 2019

Olive Ayhens, a Guggenheim Fellow and grant recipient of both the Joan Mitchell and Pollock-Krasner Foundations, has also participated in numerous residencies including Salzburg Kunstlerhaus, (Austria), The MacDowell Colony (Peterborough, NH) and Fundacion Valparaiso (Mojácar, Spain). Ayhens has exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions at the Berkeley Art Center, Lori Bookstein Gallery (NYC), Institute Franco-American (Rennes, France), Roswell Museum and Art Center, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Southern Exposure (San Francisco) and Frederieke Taylor Gallery (NYC).


Olive Ayhens clearly loves to work. Her paintings teem with energy and amazement at the quotidian luminosity of things and with the joy she clearly finds in the making. Free of ideology and the deadly cul-de-sacs of academia, she paints on. Her work is transporting and by virtue of this actually has a chance to change the world, simply because it’s not trying to. She takes you to awe, wonder, curiosity and affection for small things seen up close and large things seen from afar. The aerial view she often employs reveals the big picture, and in the process increases the scale of the viewer.

– Hills Snyder

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