Galerie Max Hetzler is pleased to present two concurrent exhibitions of early and recent paintings by Albert Oehlen. The selection of early work is accompanied by a specially produced catalogue entitled "Albert Oehlen: Paintings 1980-1982", and includes essays by Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen and Martin Prinzhorn.
Oehlen took up painting in the late 70s, a time when the medium was distinctly out of fashion, having been superseded by new media such as video or performance art. But painting offered Oehlen and his circle the ideal form through which they could question art itself. This is because "painting had a history and a language, it provided forms and contents; one could intervene, make new definitions and draw comparisons—and the results could be analysed."*
Throughout his career Oehlen's 'deconstructionist' manner of working is apparent. It is as though he asks himself 'What should a painter be concerned with?' or 'What makes a good painting?' and subverts the answers to such questions. Through his investigation of oil on canvas, Oehlen exposes ideological fault lines in art today, as well as in artistic movements of the past.
In his early work Oehlen challenges the notion that painting is a lofty pursuit demanding great care. Instead Oehlen works as fast as possible, hastily applying paint with insouciance. The paintings contain recognizable motifs, but they are devoid of meaning, drown by sweeping brushstrokes and a sense that the image is incongruous.
Oehlen's new work continues to confront the tenets of painting. The 10 paintings on view at Holzmarktstrasse are installed side by side; their edges are flush with one another so that together they form one large image. Significantly, this complete image will be dismantled as the paintings are intended to be sold individually. Thus Oehlen continues to literally deconstruct painting.
The computer-generated images belong to a series that Oehlen began in the early 90s. Here again the painter has mapped out the truncated lines and bright swirls of color on a computer, then printed the image on canvas using a large-format inkjet printer. Unlike the previous computer-generated work, these paintings do not include any post-printout additions of conventional paint on canvas. What we find here is purely digitized output. Thus the artist has replaced the revered gestural brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism with pixeled lines and digital graphics. The hand of the artist is now virtual, and his mechanically produced paintings are pure visual data to be consumed.
Albert Oehlen, born in 1954, is a Professor at the Dusseldorf Art Academy since 2001. He has exhibited widely in Germany and abroad, and is currently participating in group shows at the Kölnischer Kunstverein and the Kunsthalle Basel.
For more information, please contact the gallery at 030 229 2437, or visit our website at www.maxhetzler.com. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm.
*Roberto Ohrt, "A Tale of the Inappropriate" in Albert Oehlen, Cologne 1995, pp.15-16