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  • Provenance

    Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin

  • Catalogue Essay

    For a man who has received so much critical acclaim for his painting over the past two and a half decades, noted German artist Albert Oehlen’s prognosis on the status of his chosen medium is remarkably pessimistic: “Because we now refuse to deny the direct dependence and responsibility of art vis-à-vis reality, and on the other hand see no chance for art as we know it to have an effect, there is only one possibility left: failure.” (P. Ellis, “About Albert Oehlen and His Art,” The Triumph of Painting II, London, Saatchi Gallery 2007).

    In the more existential strains of continental philosophy the acceptance of God’s absence is a state which paradoxically provokes both anxiety and a liberating sense of relief; for Oehlen the understanding of art as a failing enterprise has a similar effect. In his early days on the Berlin art scene in the 1980s he was an avowed leftist agitator; along with partner-in-crime Martin Kippenberger he injected the democratizing and decadent influences of Punk into the self-importance of the reigning neo-expressionist style, introducing a jagged, colorfully tawdry aesthetic as an antidote to art’s lofty idealism. In the years since he has focused his energy on fashioning what he calls a “post-non-representational” style: picking at the corpse of painting’s defunct stylistic hierarchies, subjecting them to a barrage of traditional and experimental techniques and tossing the results in the proverbial blender with all manner of high or low-culture flotsam and jetsam. It is painting as sharp-tongued institutional critique, potent by virtue of its simultaneous eerie familiarity and intriguing exoticism.

    One need only look to Das Schwarze Haus (2000) to understand why Oehlen’s paintings are often described as colorful cacophony; it is also a work that contains the ideological underpinnings of Oehlen’s style in a nutshell and conveys the power of his methodical madness. The ordered foundation of digitally printed imagery lies submerged in a rainbow sea of passionate, expressionistically abstracted brushwork as classic blues, beiges and rosy hues collide with shocking neon pinks and electrified greens; all the while the fractured planes and deconstructed figures of past avant-garde movements bob and weave in this choppy surf. The painting’s lower left-hand quarter depicts the visage of cubism’s three-eyed ghost, bathed in a synthetic hot pink glow, staring anxiously over its shoulder at the colorful maelstrom behind it. It is the face of tradition unsure of its place in a painterly world in which the rules have been thrown out, anxiously adrift in Oehlen’s revolutionary (dis)order, confronted by its own failure. And it is beautiful, in the way that only genuine chaos and freedom can be. “In my work, I’m surrounded by the most dreadful pictures,” laments Oehlen. “What I see are unbearably ugly tatters, which are then transformed, as if by magic, into something beautiful,” (J. Heiser and J Verwoert, “Albert Oehlen,” Frieze, 2003 pp 106-111).

  • Artist Biography

    Albert Oehlen

    Albert Oehlen is a German contemporary artist whose work explores the capabilities and failures of painting in the age of postmodernism. His deconstructed artworks reduce painting to a discordant mixture of its constituent elements—color, gesture, motion, and duration—and celebrate the resulting disharmony as an artistic expedition to the frontiers of the abilities of painting. Oehlen began his career in the art scenes of Cologne and Berlin, becoming associated with the Junge Wilde artists who sought to create works that defied classification and disrupted the artistic status quo. He has carried this sense of rebelliousness into his mature career with works that incorporate digital technologies as well as more traditional media. Oehlen’s paintings are marked by inherent, gleeful contradictions, always wielded with a cavalier confidence in the artist’s prowess – his uncooperative fusions of abstraction and figuration, for example, expose the inefficiencies of each art mode and explore the function of painting as much as its meaning.

    Oehlen has attracted critical praise befitting the innovative nature of his work, and he has been the subject of several major exhibitions at institutions such as the Mumok, Vienna and the New Museum, New York. He lives and works between Bühler, Switzerland.

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Das Schwarze Haus (The Black House)

Oil on canvas.

77 1/8 x 94 1/2 in. (196 x 240 cm).
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity.

£120,000 - 180,000 

Sold for £120,000

The Marino Golinelli Collection

13 October 2007, 1pm