Gagosian Gallery 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, in combination, or conflated with a figurative register, as in a readymade film poster covered in smudges and stains; pictorial form is a trigger rather than an end in itself. His restless palette can be intense, subdued, dour or reduced to grey.
Often Oehlen begins by imposing a set of rules or structural limitations. In some paintings, landscapes lurk in messy patches ofpaint; 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 cut-outs-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 each occupy their own space, like a worktable clutter without a center, such as FM 53 (2008-11) and FM 55 (2008–11).
Albert Oehlen was born in 1954 in Krefeld, Germany and studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst. From 2000–09 he was a professor of painting at the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf. Recent solo exhibitions include Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain de Strasbourg (2002); "I know whom you showed last summer," Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami (2005); "Réalité abstraite," Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris (2009); "Albert Oehlen-Werke aus der Sammlung," Räume für Kunst (2010); and Carré d'Art-Musée d'art contemporain de Nimes (2011).