French / English
This catalog collects a work group of nine large-format abstractions on wood panels from 2014, which Albert Oehlen first showed at the inaugural exhibition of Galerie Max Hetzler’s new venue in Paris.
NEWS FROM THE BIG BOWL OF SOUP
“Everything is already in art—like a big bowl of soup. Everything is in there already,” declared Willem de Kooning in 1960. All you needed to do, he added, was “stick your hand in”—which, as we all know, is considered very bad manners—and “find something for you.” As always with de Kooning, behind the down-home words there is a significant aesthetic insight. His remark recommends a very relaxed, or even downright irreverent, attitude toward art and its history (or toward “tradition,” as we would have said when that word, if not the actual idea, still had a certain currency); but it also suggests—and a quick look at the artist’s work is enough to convince us of this—that there is a kind of challenge or rivalry that comes from being fully aware of what is at stake when we help ourselves in this way from a shared bowl. Evincing a certain taste for culinary metaphors, de Kooning further articulated his views on the matter by distinguishing between two categories of artists: “Those who have the stew of art on the fire, which they are eating from, and every time they take something out of it for their meal they have to put something back, so that they have enough for the next day. And then the others, they want the essence, the ‘bouillon Kub.’”
Without a doubt, Albert Oehlen is a stew man, on the side of the big bowl of soup and of the painter of the Women, whom he long ago chose as one of his sparring partners—not just a model, therefore, but someone who hits you back, catches you out, tests your technique, your “footwork.” When asked about his favorite painters in 2008, Oehlen replied: “It keeps changing, but at present I would mention de Kooning, who’s playing a big role again. I like the abstract expressionists. Most of all, I like the people who have reflected on their approaches and methods, and have introduced new aspects and parameters in painting.”