Gagosian is pleased to present an exhibition of new large-scale paintings by Albert Oehlen. This is Oehlen’s first exhibition with the gallery.
For Oehlen, the practice of painting is a subject in itself. The guiding principles of his method are uncertainty and eclecticism while his tools are brushes, fingers, collage, and computer, all wielded with equal ease. He treats abstraction as gesture or geometry, superimposed or conflated with a figurative register; pictorial form is a trigger rather than an end in itself. His restless palette can be intense, subdued, dour, or reduced to gray.
Often Oehlen begins by imposing a set of rules or structural limitations. In some paintings, landscapes lurk in messy patches of paint; fleeting visions are provoked and just as quickly abandoned. Collage is both a conceptual and formal construct, from the heterogeneous combining of elements to the damaged or torn signs and magazine advertisements that form the foundations of his paintings and eventually fuse with the painted surface, composed of seemingly informal gestures-swipes and erasures, awkward drawing, and the occasional crude cartoon. Nothing coheres in a way that could be said to have substantive narrative dimension or pictorial legibility, except for visible stops and starts that prod the limits of content.
In Oehlen’s recent work, flat, figurative cutouts—all the products of computer-aided design (CAD)—and gestural strokes of oil paint trade places in the service of collage. Revolving around the crisis of the real that is inherent in CAD, the resulting collages tug at the distinctions between man-made and machine-made, representational and non-representational, abstract and figurative, for example in Vulkan (2009), and F (2009) where bright, flat, color-blocked advertisements are disrupted by visceral brushwork. In others, the open-ended, “unfinished” dialogue between binary oppositions is unsettling yet compelling: in any one work, the paint, the collaged pictures and texts, and patches of white canvas occupy their own spaces, like clutter on a worktable, as in FM 53 (2008–11) and FM 55 (2008–11).
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.