Albert Oehlen - Industrielle Elfen
Oil on panel. 120 x 60 cm. Framed. Signed and dated 'A.Oehlen 01' verso on panel and titled 'Industrielle Elfen' on stretcher. - Minor traces of age.
In the 1980s, Albert Oehlen, one of the most significant painters of his generation, breaks with all painting convention as the 'new wild boy' and, together with Martin Kippenberger and Werner Büttner, provokes his viewers with the exhibition 'Wahrheit ist Arbeit' [Truth is Hard Work] at Museum Folkwang in 1984. He repeatedly questions his work with 'post-non-objective' paintings, as he calls them. For Oehlen, paintings mean work, hard work, each painting being a gamble. He layers, overpaints, blurs, reworks and also implements mirrors as a space for the creative energy of the viewer. The artist creates recurringly related, abstract forms as his ciphers, as his objects, and inserts them into the language of his painting. In his later works, it is Pop Art style figures in the style of the 1960s and 1970s and extreme and even provocative product and advertising posters of our time that mimic provocative readability and true representationalism in his large-format paintings while simultaneously merging at the level of actual painting. From a formal perspective, these are two very different works that mark an intensive work process and an unshakable position in the here and now.
Since the 1990s, he created an extremely diverse and complex oeuvre of paintings in which abstract expressionists such as the American artists Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning, and painters of the classical Art Informel provided references for his work. Every so often, Albert Oehlen ventures a glance at the digital world and paints black and white or strongly coloured pixelated computer pictures and provocatively presents them as an open field, as the future of painting. Graphics and Art Informel do not contradict each other. On the contrary, both come together in abstraction.
Between two phases of austere grey paintings at the beginning of this century, Oehlen paints a series of paintings that deal with the work of the American writer, theoretician, and painter John Graham (1886-1961), who has a considerable influence on the New York scene of American Abstract Expressionism. Unusual paintings emerge with which Oehlen paraphrases and cites animating elements from Graham's work in his pictorial language and, after an initial, unusual foreign object-likeness, fuses them with his own artistic hand: the representational no longer exists as a challenge in terms of content, but merely as an element for a painterly formalisation, in this case a specifically spatial one. Oehlen continues to pursue the principle of the collage, by quite casually integrating something absurd, banal, and incongruous into the picture. A provocation against the seemingly chaotic Art Informel: a clear form is juxtaposed to a comparatively 'private' format, as is the case here. 'I have a vision that I can contribute something that can be recognisable without it becoming narrative.' (Albert Oehlen, cited in: Albert Oehlen, ed. by Hans Werner Holzwarth, Cologne 2017, p. 115).
Thus, there is a non-verbal lack of relationship between two creative moments in this picture, which is superimposed and disturbs the once established informal atmosphere with aesthetic innocence. But the painter also stratifies contrasts between representational readability and unfettered, extreme painterly development, forming layer by layer. The colour tone between muted murky tones and bright orange, neon green and mild yellow asserts itself against the pink object popping-up on the right. 'In painting, there is a completely absurd procedure,' says Oehlen. 'Something three-dimensional has been reduced to two dimensions, and that is abstraction. [...] The work one creates, the transformation of reality into the picture, is such an insane transformation in itself that it no longer really matters whether an apple is still recognisable or not...'. (Albert Oehlen, cited in: Albert Oehlen, ed. by Hans Werner Holzwarth, Cologne 2017, p. 140).
The authenticity of the present work has been confirmed by Atelier Albert Oehlen via email dated 19.09.2018. The artwork will not be included in the catalogue raisonné.
Acquired directly from the artist; private collection, North Rhine-Westphalia