Born in Krefeld in 1954, and a student of Sigmar Polke’s at Hamburg, Albert Oehlen was linked to
‘Bad painting’ throughout the eighties alongside artists like Werner Buttner, Martin Kippenberger and Georg Herold. Unlike his contemporaries who graduated from the Düsseldorf school, Albert Oehlen opted for painting from the outset, turning to abstract art in the early nineties.
This exhibition is to include 35 paintings, all in large formats, and follows the purchase in 2009 by
the museum of a large corner diptych dating from 2008. It takes stock of the artist’s recent output and its stated relationship to American abstraction of the years 1950-60, especially the work of Willem De Kooning, which he greatly admires.
Albert Oehlen’s work is never repetitive. Each painting is to be seen as a complex world with a blend of contrasting colours, blurred effects, computer pixels, outlines with the finger, figurative and abstract elements etc. What all these works have in common is the research into painting as a field, a ‘mixture’ from which emerge (or sink down) countless visual signs, turning something totally impure into an amazing abstract reality.
Oehlen sets new rules for each series, sometimes the choice of a colour, collage or certain formats.
The more recent paintings, done on wood, address older formal parameters such as the form-substance relation, spontaneity versus precision, the allover, and the question of composition. The choice is based on 4 sets: abstract works from the mid-nineties, Gray Paintings (1998-2008), Computer Paintings, and a group of Finger Malerei (finger paintings) on show here for the first time. Albert Oehlen stresses the course he took from his abstract work of the nineties to his recent production. In answer to frequently asked questions on this subject, he states that he can hardly be more explicit and yet recognizes this as the powerhouse of his creative work, defining a kind of Art for Art’s sake where everything that happens is what happens on the picture. Shunning any chronology, the hanging will be mixing up works from the various different periods.
The bilingual French/English catalogue is published jointly with the publishers Archibooks + Sautereau. It includes an interview between the artist and Judicaël Lavrador.