Qualities that I want to see brought together: delicacy and coarseness, color and vagueness, and, underlying them all, a base note of hysteria.
Albert Oehlen’s oeuvre is a testament to the innate freedom of the creative act. Through expressionist brushwork, surrealist methodology, and self-conscious amateurism he engages with the history of abstract painting, pushing the basic components of abstraction to new extremes.
Oehlen studied at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg in Germany from 1978 to 1981 and quickly rose to prominence in the Berlin and Cologne art scenes. He came to be associated with the Junge Wilde artists, including Martin Kippenberger and Werner Büttner, who sought to create work that defied categorization and refuted the artistic status quo. Straddling various debates surrounding the nature of painting, Oehlen’s work deconstructed the medium to its constituent elements—color, gesture, motion, and time—and evolved out of constraints he applied to his artistic process. This line of investigation, which Oehlen has continued to pursue in the decades since has resulted in striking variations between—from works that combine abstract and figurative styles, created in response to the Neo-Expressionism of the 1980s, to paintings comprising of grids of colored squares.
As Oehlen began to incorporate new technologies into his work—inkjet printers, computer-aided design programs, and references to the pixelated lines of computer screens—the parameters that he set for himself shifted, offering new obstacles and challenges. Some of these self-imposed “rules” include limiting his palette and combining perambulating black lines with carefully blended gradations (in the Baumbilder [Tree Paintings]), and utilizing erasure and layering to juxtapose bright and muddy colors, as in the Elevator Paintings, a single work in nine parts from 2016. In the late 1990s, Oehlen spray-painted over collaged imagery that had been transferred to canvas with large, industrial printers typically used to create billboards.
Oehlen is perhaps best known for his embrace of “bad” painting. Alongside his many rules, he allows a certain awkwardness or ugliness to enter his work, introducing unsettling gestures, crudely drawn figures, visceral smears of artificial pigments, bold hues, and flesh tones. In this way, he attests to the infinite combinations of form made possible through painting, and shows that these combinations can be manipulated at the artist’s will to produce novel perceptual challenges for the viewer.
Photo: Katherine McMahon
Extended through November 9, 2019
September 12–November 9, 2019
SEXE, RELIGION, POLITIQUE
October 13–December 21, 2018
Elevator Paintings: Trees
February 28–April 15, 2017
West 21st Street, New York
February 5–March 24, 2016
Grosvenor Hill, London
“Home & Garden” Annex
June 17–September 4, 2015
Park & 75, New York
June 6–July 18, 2014
May 23–July 26, 2013
June 8–July 27, 2012
Albert Oehlen: Maximum Chance Maximum Control
The artist met with art historian Christian Malycha to discuss his newest paintings.
Gagosian Quarterly Fall 2019
The Fall 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly is now available, featuring a detail from Sinking (2019) by Nathaniel Mary Quinn on its cover.
Cows by the Water
At the Palazzo Grassi, Venice, a career-spanning exhibition of paintings by Albert Oehlen, entitled Cows by the Water, went on view in the spring of 2018. Caroline Bourgeois, the curator of the exhibition, discusses how the show was organized around the artist’s relationship to music.
Jens-Uwe Beyer and Albert Oehlen
Yellow Book Album
Wednesday, February 19, 2020, 5–11pm
Iklectik will be hosting the London launch of Jens-Uwe Beyer and Albert Oehlen’s limited-edition collaborative album, Yellow Book, copublished by Magazine and Gagosian. The event will include music from the album and visuals by Oehlen. The eight vinyl records of Beyer’s atmospheric, melodic tech-house music are stored in full cover sleeves inside a slipcase, each featuring silkscreened artwork by Oehlen. To attend the free event, register at www.tickettailor.com.
Jens-Uwe Beyer and Albert Oehlen’s album, Yellow Book (2019)
Online Viewing Room
Frieze Los Angeles 2020
February 10–19, 2020
Gagosian will launch its latest Online Viewing Room on the occasion of Frieze Los Angeles, with available works by Chris Burden, Alex Israel & Bret Easton Ellis, Neil Jenney, Albert Oehlen, Chris Ofili, David Reed, Ed Ruscha, Bill Whiskey Tjapaltjarri, Tatiana Trouvé, and Jonas Wood. Many of the artworks included in this virtual presentation consider the political, geographical, and social landscapes of Los Angeles.
The Frieze Los Angeles 2020 Online Viewing Room will open at 12:00am on Monday, February 10, in Hong Kong, and close at 11:59pm on Wednesday, February 19, in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
For more information about the Online Viewing Room or the work to be featured, please contact email@example.com.
Chris Burden, L.A.P.D. Uniform, 1993 © 2020 Chris Burden/Licensed by the Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Taipei Dangdai 2020
January 17–19, 2020, booth E20
Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Taipei Dangdai 2020, presenting works by Georg Baselitz, John Currin, Edmund de Waal, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Damien Hirst, Robert Indiana, John Mason, Takashi Murakami, Takashi Murakami & Virgil Abloh, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Steven Parrino, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Spencer Sweeney, Tom Wesselmann, and Jonas Wood, among others.
John Currin, Young Woman on a Lounger, 2014 © John Currin
Closing this Week
Carroll Dunham / Albert Oehlen
Bäume / Trees
Through March 1, 2020
Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany
Within their individual self-imposed parameters Carroll Dunham and Albert Oehlen continually test the possibilities of painting, experimenting with techniques, surfaces, and structures in an independent manner. Nowhere is this more evident than in regard to the subject of trees, which both artists have repeatedly included in their work and interpreted in their own ways. This exhibition brings together large-scale paintings alongside drawings, etchings, and monotypes by both painters in which they explore the arboreal themes in their radically independent pictorial languages.
Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 2015 © Albert Oehlen/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019
October 2, 2019–February 2, 2020
Serpentine Gallery, London
At the center of this exhibition is an installation that marks the beginning of Albert Oehlen’s process of interpreting the Rothko Chapel in Houston. Oehlen has made four new paintings—of the same scale and size as the four horizontal canvases by Mark Rothko found in the chapel—specifically for the exhibition. A selection of paintings by the artist from the past two decades and a newly configured soundtrack by Steamboat Switzerland are also included.
Albert Oehlen, Sohn von Hundescheisse, 1999 © Albert Oehlen. Photo: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin|Paris
The Foundation of the Museum
May 19, 2019–January 20, 2020
Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles
To mark the museum’s fortieth anniversary, this exhibition presents a selected topography of artworks that speak to the diversity of MOCA’s collecting over the past four decades. With special emphasis on works associated with the museum’s remarkable history of exhibitions, The Foundation of the Museum: MOCA’s Collection shows the institution’s holdings as shaped by a changing landscape of developments in contemporary art and curatorial focus, as well by as the social and cultural backdrops that inform them. Work by Chris Burden, Mike Kelley, Bruce Nauman, Albert Oehlen, Nancy Rubins, and Ed Ruscha is included.
Chris Burden, Exposing the Foundation of the Museum, 1986 © 2019 Chris Burden/Licensed by the Chris Burden Estate and Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Squidds and Nunns
July 6–November 10, 2019
Lokremise, St. Gallen, Switzerland
This exhibition, whose title translates to Unfinished, features a range of works by Albert Oehlen from the 1980s to the present day, including paintings and video. Additionally, Oehlen has created a new site-specific installation, based on an earlier work, for the show.
Installation view, Albert Oehlen: Unfertig, Lokremise, St. Gallen, Switzerland, July 6–November 10, 2019. Artwork © Albert Oehlen