The Ising problem consists in finding the analytical solution of the partition function of a lattice once the interaction geometry among its elements is specified. No general analytical solution is available for this problem, except for the one-dimensional case. Using site-specific thermodynamics, it is shown that the partition function for ligand binding to a two-dimensional lattice can be obtained from those of one-dimensional lattices with known solution. The complexity of the lattice is reduced recursively by application of a contact transformation that involves a relatively small number of steps. The transformation implemented in a computer code solves the partition function of the lattice by operating on the connectivity matrix of the graph associated with it. This provides a powerful new approach to the Ising problem, and enables a systematic analysis of two-dimensional lattices that model many biologically relevant phenomena. Application of this approach to finite two-dimensional lattices with positive cooperativity indicates that the binding capacity per site diverges as Na (N = number of sites in the lattice) and experiences a phase-transition-like discontinuity in the thermodynamic limit N → ∞. The zeroes of the partition function tend to distribute on a slightly distorted unit circle in complex plane and approach the positive real axis already for a 5×5 square lattice. When the lattice has negative cooperativity, its properties mimic those of a system composed of two classes of independent sites with the apparent population of low-affinity binding sites increasing with the size of the lattice, thereby accounting for a phenomenon encountered in many ligand-receptor interactions.