Gagosian / Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin | Paris | London, Paris 2018
In the new paintings eccentric shapes and forms float untethered on the open surface. The self-appropriation of the tree motif and an allusion to the Fingermalerei (Finger Paintings) paintings is consistent with Oehlen's continual quest to reveal the process of painting and what occurs on the pictorial surface during that process .
The fields of bright yellow which serve as the background for the paintings is suggestive of sunshine and nature, yet the format of these works is not typical of a landscape or a vertical tree. Presented as a square, it engages with the geometric possibilities explored on the surface. Painted onto Alubond, an aluminium panel that offers an extremely smooth ground, the reduced black lines and forms dissect the picture plane, often extending beyond the support to open up the space in-between.
Combining impersonal gestures with bold geometric lines, Oehlen investigates the positive / negative opposition between the flat support and the texture of the paint as it dissolves and drips down the surface. Balancing the immediacy of free gesture with restricted mark-making along a template, the paintings oscillate between geometric rigidity and organic forms.
Publisher: Gagosian / Galerie Max Hetzler Berlin | Paris | London, Paris
Publication date: 2018
Dimensions: 30 x 30.5 x 0.5 cm
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One of the most respected painters today, Albert Oehlen (b. 1954) constantly questions the methods and means of painting to raise a sense of awareness of the medium, which he aims to reinvent and to reshape, always in opposition to traditional hierarchies. Albert Oehlen has been continually colliding various styles, orders or mediums since the 80’s, expanding the notion of painting to ‘what he wants to see’.
‘Albert Oehlen long ago constructed the possibility of his own painting. Yet at the beginning the road seemed not merely a narrow alley, it looked like a dead end. What then? Give up and turn back? Or take a hammer and drive a tunnel through the solid amorphous mass before him? Albert Oehlen was one of the very few to take up that hammer. And when he started he struck mighty blows. It was in materials, expression, history and genre – in everything his immediate predecessors had progressively demolished with their hammers – that Oehlen stated his determination not to give in. His possibility of painting had to be built from the foundations. No gratuitous transgressions, no irony or cynicism – even if it is true that some used these terms to disparage his efforts to be free of artistic propriety. Instead Oehlen went looking where nobody else did, plunging into the piles of detritus abandoned by the wayside of an era. Then a final task remained: that of interweaving painting as history with the position of the painter and with the society out of which both painting and painter emerge in order to reflect on it.’
A. Pontégnie, The history of abstraction seemed to be finished in Albert Oehlen, Galerie Max Hetzler and Holzwarth Publications, 2011
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