Albert Oehlen - Galerie Max Hetzler

From March 22nd to April 30th 2005, the Galerie Max Hetzler will be showing paintings by Albert Oehlen. Oehlen is considered as an internationally acknowledged protagonist of the medium painting, which he has been pursuing continually against all other trends in contemporary art. Scrutinizing closely panel painting and redefining it at the same time he continues this century-old tradition. His 'post-nonrepresentational' art critically and ironically examines public ideologies and the classical conception of what painting is about. Again and again he takes the viewer by surprise by means of his subtle and unexpected shifts of acceptations. Albert Oehlen, born in 1954, has been attached to the Galerie Max Hetzler since 1981. The works of art on display give a survey of a subject, which has run through his work for a long time: mirror images. Since 1982 a large number works have come into being which grapple with the presentation of spaces and the intensification of their three dimensional effect by way of mirrors.

"The subtlest formulations of atrocities ever conceived are in the chapter that now follows: what's known as motif-mirroring. There have always been representations of mirrors. Particularly on walls, in altars, miniatures and claps of short belts made of leather and sweat, and in the High Middle Ages. The bird may wish to overcome these representations of eternal throwback martyrdom, but retains the individual elements of the picture in order to keep them in mind in a new sequence and with greater intensity than ever, painted precisely as an elegant satire, and in order to define itself in this way as a titan cat or surrealist and to wear the golden T-Shirt home.
Albert Oehlen, Summary of Contents, 2000

The works of large format created between 1982 and 1985 deal with the traditional consideration of the representation of pictorial space. Oehlen is an impressive master of space and its pictorial depth. He does not have recourse to personal experiences, but introduces exemplary, abstracted rooms. A staircase or an artist's studio are not painted in detail, but they merge into all the other elements of the painting. It therefore represents more than the objects themselves. Most of the time the rooms are empty, rarely there are figures, e.g. in the painting: Als hätte man mir die Muschel herausgedreht II (As if somebody had screwed out my shell II) created in 1982. But here too, the figure is only alluded to, only the arms of a harpist are discernible at the left margin of the painting. Nearly the same is true for the furniture - mostly empty rooms are shown, and the viewer bumps into walls, which act as barriers (Untitled, 1984 and Atelier II (Studio II), 1985).

In general these spaces work with three levels: the perspective representation of the room, the inserted mirrors and the lines drawn across it. The three dimensional effect is largely increased by these inserted mirrors. While the viewer is mowing in front of the paintings it is not only him who is drawn into the picture, but at the same time the room that surrounds him. The reflection of light varies according to the viewer's position and he is irritated by this effect.

At the same time the mirrors become part of the composition and they are submitted to the structure of the painting, e.g. in Treppenhaus alt (Staircase, old), 1982. Here the mirrors are incorporated by overpaintings which extend the motif. The perspective lines, which embrace the painting, like a spider's net, underline the effect and they seal it at the same time. This technique can be well noticed in Kotzimmer (Dung Room), 1982, where lines frame and connect the six inserted mirrors, forming at the same time their own structure. All the works have a relatively reduced, subdued colour scale in common which reaches from grey to olive green to ochre-coloured and sometimes to yellow.


Born in Krefeld in 1954, Albert Oehlen lives and works in Switzerland and Spain. Albert Oehlens is represented by the Galerie Max Hetzler, where he had his first one person show in 1981. He has exhibited widely in various Institutions and Musems including the Secession, Vienna (2004), Musée Cantonnal de Lausanne (2004), Musée d'Art Contemporain de Strasbourg (2002), Kestner-Gesellschaft, Hannover (2001), Kunsthalle Basel (1997) and IVAM Valencia (1996). The Miami Museum of Contemporary Art will do a survey of his work in december 2005.