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b. 1954, Germany

Albert Oehlen Biography

Albert Oehlen is a German artist and former professor at Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (2000–2009) now living and working in Switzerland. The artist's contemporary art practice has engaged with a myriad of sources, from the history of Abstract Expressionism to the methodology of Surrealism and the imagery of advertising. In the pursuit of artistic freedom and variation, he has utilised the brushstrokes of Expressionism as well as the technology of computers.

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Graduating from the Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg, in 1981 Oehlen quickly became engaged in the Berlin and Cologne art scenes. He became associated with Berlin's Junge Wilde artists, including Werner Büttner and Martin Kippenberger, who turned to a reinvigorated form of Expressionism, opposing Minimalism and Conceptual art. His work retains that fierce quality, with crowded compositions and highly expressive brushwork.

To create an aesthetically pleasing artwork is not Oehlen's concern. The artist has stated, 'If I have to decide whether to make a beautiful painting or a new painting, I will choose new every time.' The artist embraces so-called 'bad' painting with crude figures and jarring visceral smears of paint that challenge the viewers' perceptions and highlight the limitless combinations of forms achievable in painting.

Working within self-imposed constraints, Oehlen often reduces the medium of painting to its base elements of line, gesture, colour, and motion before recombining them in various disparate works that expand the boundaries of painting. In works such as Bleo (1995), brush strokes both sharp and linear, soft and fluid, share the same canvas, as do colours that are distinct and colours that are blurred into each other. Stylistic variations also abound, ranging from the almost geometrical approach of his paintings of trees such as Untitled (Tree 1) (2013), in which dense and thin lines are placed upon a white-to-pink gradated background, to the figurative work Self-Portrait Making Pottery (2012), which depicts a male figure holding a porcelain sink against an expressively applied background of hazy purple and orange. Self-Portrait Making Pottery also acts as a means of questioning the identity of the artistic figure. In works such as the 'Grey' paintings (1997–2008), the artist limits himself only to painting in grey, expanding the range of creative possibilities available by working within tight restrictions in the tradition of the Surrealists.

Since the 1990s, Oehlen has incorporated and referenced new technology such as inkjet printers and computer design programmes to produce artworks such as Party Dreams (2001). For works like Party Dreams, the artist brushes and sprays onto a collage of imagery that has been printed onto canvas by massive inkjet printers typically used to create billboards. Works such as Untitled (32) (1994), in which the artist draws in gouache, ink, Tipp-Ex, and pencil over a printed catalogue page, further confound the line between machine-made and man-made.

Over his career—particularly the past two decades—Oehlen has exhibited in galleries across Europe, the United States, and China.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2019

Albert Oehlen Featured Artworks

Chemical Schmutzli by Albert Oehlen contemporary artwork
Albert OehlenChemical Schmutzli, 2004Oil on canvas
289.6 x 260.4 cm
Lévy Gorvy Enquire about this work
Conduction 12 by Albert Oehlen contemporary artwork
Albert OehlenConduction 12, 2010Charcoal, acrylic on canvas
210 x 270 cm
Thomas Dane Gallery
L.P.A., 2007 (For Parkett 79) by Albert Oehlen contemporary artwork
Albert OehlenL.P.A., 2007 (For Parkett 79), 2007Etching and Charbonnel black ink on Hahnemühle Dürer Etching White 300 g/m2
35 x 51.5 cm
Parkett Enquire about this work
Bleo by Albert Oehlen contemporary artwork
Albert OehlenBleo, 1995Oil on canvas
240 x 200 cm
Thomas Dane Gallery

Albert Oehlen Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, (SELF) PORTRAITS at Parkett, Zurich
Open Now
22 February–18 July 2020 Group Exhibition (SELF) PORTRAITS Parkett, Zurich Exhibition Space
Contemporary art exhibition, Albert Oehlen, New Paintings at Gagosian, Hong Kong
12 September–26 October 2019 Albert Oehlen New Paintings Gagosian, Hong Kong
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Continuing Abstraction at Gagosian, Basel
10 June–13 July 2019 Group Exhibition Continuing Abstraction Gagosian, Basel

Albert Oehlen Represented By

Albert Oehlen In Related Press

A Painter Embraces Inauthenticity Related Press A Painter Embraces Inauthenticity 19 October 2019, Hyperallergic

LONDON — Over every German painter of the postwar era, there has hung, like some filthy, impermeable cloud, the moral dereliction of the Third Reich. Where to go from here? How to pick up the shattered pieces? How even to begin to believe that art could be permissible again as an authentic representation of the human condition after a...

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Frieze London review, Regent's Park: the fine art of hobnobbing and showing off Related Press Frieze London review, Regent's Park: the fine art of hobnobbing and showing off 3 October 2019, Telegraph

It can be tiring traipsing around the annual Frieze London art fair in Regent's Park – which is why, when you pass Tokyo gallery Taro Nasu's booth, you may find yourself drawn to a black vending machine. If you're after refreshment, though, prepare for disappointment – because this automated device is an installation by British conceptual artist...

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Gagosian to go off-piste with first pop-up show during Art Basel Related Press Gagosian to go off-piste with first pop-up show during Art Basel 4 June 2019, The Art Newspaper

Last year, Gagosian introduced an innovative virtual online viewing room during Art Basel. This year, the gallery is creating another sales platform during the Swiss fair, this time taking a bricks and mortar approach with an off-site pop-up exhibition titled Continuing Abstraction (10—16 June).

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Albert Oehlen Is Like a Badger of Painting Related Press Albert Oehlen Is Like a Badger of Painting 8 June 2015, Vulture

The New Museum's tight two-floor, 27-work exhibition of Albert Oehlen gives ample evidence of the ways and whys this 61-year-old German artist is one of the most influential painters working anywhere today—a virtual freedom machine. Oehlen is like a badger of painting, a cross between a weasel and a small bear, fearlessly scouring painting's...

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