Albert Oehlen studied with Sigmar Polke in Hamburg in the 1970’s and emerged in the early 80’s, along with contemporaries Martin Kippenberger, Georg Herold and Werner Buttner as part of a generation acting in critical and often comedic contradiction to the predominant ideology of the time.
At the heart of Albert Oehlen’s practice is a serious engagement with the history of painting and a radical political opposition to its hierarchies and values. Redefining the consequence of painting in a post-painterly era, he describes his work as ‘post-non-representational’. Through exploring and challenging the tropes and expectations of traditional abstraction, he strives to reconstitute a contemporary meaning for art as an independent articulate form.
Albert Oehlen’s work is wide-ranging in media and style, amalgamating figurative, abstract and layered elements to broaden the scope of painting. His most recent works are often produced through computer-generated design, incorporating collaged photographic and printed elements as a means to explore new territories of representation and reception. By adopting the ‘unprofessional’ qualities of collage, he shuns traditional criticism and defines his work by the limitations of its own construction.
Albert Oehlen’s paintings are neither beautiful nor seductive. Instead, they are elaborate strategies of provocation. Their self-consciously brutal surfaces seem to be corrupted from within, a perversion of the paintings they might have been.
Working from an ironic position of failure, he uses abstraction as a metaphor for breakdown: of perceived reality, artistic function and aesthetic effect. Albert Oehlen’s paintings offer a raw confrontation with the deficiencies of visual language and illustrate its trappings in their making. –Patricia Ellis