When an artist admittedly wishes to paint good pictures but presents his work under the label “Bad Paintings”, then this suggests that he doesn’t know much about the conventional categories of beauty and ugliness. In fact, the painter Albert Oehlen disbands existing references with his art and creates his own space full of new relations.(...) Continue reading
Albert Oehlen – Provocations, unintentional
Albert Oehlen was born on 17 September 1954 in Krefeld, the eldest son of the caricaturist Adolf Oehlen. Albert inherited his father’s artistic talent and the study of art was inevitable. His teachers at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg were Claus Böhmle and Sigmar Polke. Already early on in his artistic career he caused a sensation together with his friend and colleague Werner Büttner, when he excited the public with a pornographic detail in a mural created especially for the bookshop “Welt”. The artists denied however any intention behind the scandal and amended the mural. Again with Büttner, Albert Oehlen founded the “Liga zur Bekämpfung widersprüchlichen Verhaltens” (League against contradictory behavior), which of course did not stop him from repeatedly constructing his own works from an intriguing net of greatly varying contradictions. However, even with pictures such as his infamous “Selbstporträt mit verschissener Unterhose und blauer Mauritius” (Self-portrait with Shitty Underpants and Blue Mauritius), Oehlen strongly rejected any implication of provocation. With the combination of feces and precious objects, the artist stated, unmoved, that he merely wanted to prompt his public to a deeper interpretation.
Multimedia artist with a focus on painting
It is not surprising that with such a casual attitude, Albert Oehlen quickly rose to become an important constituent of the “Neuen Wilden” movement. The artist himself cared little about such descriptions, found the majority of the attempts to categorise his work silly, and despite all the humorous-parodistic formulations, saw himself as a serious painter. Although painting remained at the centre of his creative process, it didn’t make up the entire work. As one of the first multi-media artists, Albert Oehlen also produced computer pictures, and although in the light of today’s continually advancing technology seem somewhat naïve, they have yet retained a certain independent fascination. Oehlen often conceives his works serially, letting picture follow picture, thereby composing visual suites which drive the viewer ahead making a concrete interpretation and categorisation as difficult as possible. The artist names his enthusiastic experiments “postungegenständlich” (post-non-figurative), but away from these framework extensions, he always returns to his starting point, that of classical painting on canvas.
Continued international success
Albert Oehlen also attracted great attention beyond the German art scene. He exhibited all over the world and was accepted into public collections. The Düsseldorf Art Academy honoured him with a professorship which he held from 2000 to 2009. He also received prizes and special awards, such as an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. In the same year he curated an exhibition of his own and other works in the Essen Folkwang Museum – a welcome chance for Oehlen to make new contacts and to allow his own art to communicate with that of other artists. Albert Oehlen lives and works in Switzerland. His younger brother Markus Oehlen is also a successful artist.
Albert Oehlen - Works that have already been sold at Kunsthaus Lempertz: