Albert Oehlen: unverständliche braune Bilder
English / German
The book presents two new series by painter Albert Oehlen: there are the “incomprehensible brown pictures,” in which he takes up elements of his earlier abstract work to combine them in new ways and take up our traditional idea of the painting as an enigmatic object from another time. Alongside these are the Ö-Norm paintings, in which the artist elegantly balances or wrestles with forms on canvases defining the artist’s current aesthetic standard between painting and collage. These twenty works from the years 2020–2021 were shown in a double exhibition at two venues of Galerie Max Hetzler in Berlin. They are presented here in a bibliophile leporello edition, once as a sequence of work illustrations and, on the opposite, in installation views that invite the reader to walk through the exhibition spaces.
Incomprehensible Brown Pictures
(excerpt from the text by Christian Malycha)
Incomprehensible? Like a language you don’t understand. A statement that does not explain itself. Images that cannot be grasped, that cannot be classified. So, what to do? Where to start? “When you paint, you have a physical relationship to the picture through the length of your arm, of your brush. That’s the maximum distance. That’s how much you see of the painting. If the painting has a certain size, you have to make this and that movement, as required factors.” Decoding, up close and personal. Oehlen compresses and stretches, tugs and tears at everything available as visual material. He scatters the colors, sprays and smears them, washes them down. The contrasts are jolting with a bounce. Surfaces dissolve into glazes and drippings or congeal in jagged blocks of paint. Images with towering central streaks alternate with ones piled up from below and others tumbling down from above or encircling a fathomless empty center.
Nothing but opposites: broken centrality, focused dispersion. Signs become textures. Dense passages stand against a staccato of short strokes. Dynamics become hesitant, statics decisive. Fullness meets sparseness. The chromaticity is luminous in the primary colors and warped in the intermediate hues. Geometry counters gestural outbursts. Shapeless lines occasionally take the form of letters (an “OA” or “A”) or expand into enormous landscapes. Abruptly, ornamental webs turn into sprawling fleshy organs. The question of what is ‘authentic’ and what is calculated hangs in the very same limbo as do seriousness and irony. The planes blur into one another but it is precisely this blurring that Oehlen brings into clear focus. When such uncertainty becomes fundamental, its painterly reflection is absolutely contemporary. “For me that’s stimulating, because most abstract painting is rather one-dimensional, very simple in its disposition. So, how can you complicate things to learn something from them?”