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
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
March 3–April 7, 2012
980 Madison Avenue, New York
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.
Online Viewing Room
Art Basel Hong Kong 2019
March 23–31, 2019
Alongside the presentation of works by several gallery artists at Art Basel Hong Kong, the Online Viewing Room features a single important painting by Albert Oehlen. Informational texts and video on the abstract work from 1988 are available in English and Chinese, and Gagosian staff are available online twenty-four hours a day for live assistance. This online offering of a major painting by Oehlen—a work made at a pivotal moment in his trajectory as a painter—comes on the heels of the career-spanning survey Albert Oehlen: Cows by the Water at Palazzo Grassi, Venice.
The Art Basel Hong Kong Online Viewing Room will open at 12:00am on Saturday, March 23, in Hong Kong, and close at 11:59pm on Sunday, March 31, in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
For more information about the Art Basel Hong Kong 2019 Online Viewing Room or the work to be featured, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 1988 © Albert Oehlen
Art Basel Hong Kong
March 29–31, 2019, booth 1C18
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Gagosian is pleased to participate in Art Basel Hong Kong 2019, with works by Georg Baselitz, Edmund de Waal, Urs Fischer, Katharina Grosse, Andreas Gursky, Duane Hanson, Damien Hirst, Thomas Houseago, Yayoi Kusama, René Magritte, Giorgio Morandi, Takashi Murakami, Albert Oehlen, Nam June Paik, Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Rachel Whiteread, Jonas Wood, Christopher Wool, Zao Wou-Ki, Zeng Fanzhi, and others.
Zeng Fanzhi, Rooster, 2019 © 2019 Zeng Fanzhi
February 8–March 9, 2019
420a North Camden Drive, Beverly Hills
Hours: Monday–Saturday, 10am–6pm
For this pop-up exhibition presented by Gagosian, Albert Oehlen will create a large-scale, site-specific wall drawing—his sprawling, erratic lines activating the space, which can be entered or viewed from the street. The exhibition will also be open Sunday, February 17, 11am–5pm, to coincide with the gallery’s presentation at Frieze Los Angeles.
Installation view, Albert Oehlen: Wall Drawing, Beverly Hills, February 8–March 2, 2019. Artwork © Albert Oehlen. Photo: Jeff McLane
Albert Oehlen in
La Collection de la Fondation: Le parti de la peinture
Through August 26, 2019
Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris
Seventy-five paintings by twenty-three international artists from the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s collection, dating from the 1960s to today, are on view. Work by Albert Oehlen is included.
Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 1992–2005, Collection Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris © Albert Oehlen/ADAGP, Paris 2019. Photo © Primae/David Bordes
Through September 2019
Aïshti Foundation, Lebanon
Trance is a solo exhibition by Albert Oehlen. Oehlen is also curating a group show drawn from both the Aïshti Foundation’s collection and from his personal collection.
Albert Oehlen, Paravent 3, 2015 © Albert Oehlen
Cows by the Water
April 8, 2018–January 6, 2019
Palazzo Grassi, Venice
Presenting eighty-five works created between the 1980s and today, Cows by the Water reveals a syncopated rhythm between various genres and periods in Albert Oehlen’s complex oeuvre. Music emerges as metaphor of Oehlen’s working methods, where contamination and rhythm, improvisation and repetition, density and harmony become pictorial gestures.
Installation view, Albert Oehlen: Cows by the Water, Palazzo Grassi, Venice, April 8, 2018–January 6, 2019. Artwork © Albert Oehlen. Photo: Matteo De Fina © Palazzo Grassi
Albert Oehlen and Peppi Bottrop
March 1–August 12, 2018
Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles
Line Packers” features Albert Oehlen’s computer paintings, a series that the artist began in the early 1990s, alongside Peppi Bottrop’s line-drawing paintings, which respond to the architecture of the foundation’s Lounge Gallery.
Albert Oehlen, Untitled, 1992/2008 © Albert Oehlen. Photo by Simon Vogel