On view at Gagosian Beverly Hills is an exhibition of recent large scale paintings by German artist Albert Oehlen, showcasing the artist’s continued interests in both abstract painterly gesture and the intersections of modernity with the act of painting. The exhibition will remain on view through July 18, 2014.
Oehlen’s work combines a self-imposed set of rules and limitations with a process of impulsiveness, eclecticism, and unpredictability. He uses brushes as well as his fingers to paint, and often involves practices of collage and computer generated images, embracing smudges and stains in his work that leave evidence of his process and exchange with his materials. Often, damaged or torn signs and magazine advertisements form the foundation of his large-scale works, on which he paints, draws, erases, and spills, all the while employing geometry. Oehlen superimposes his own fingerprints and brushstrokes on the readymade image, turning what was intended as concrete into something abstract and figurative.
In his new series of four-part paintings on aluminum panels, Oehlen uses a palette limited to red, black and white, with which he creates tree-like figures. The tree has presented itself as a motif throughout Oehlen’s body of work since the 1980s, and his current tree works have been carefully handpainted to look like the ‘clean’ digital marks of design software. He intentionally flattens the color, surface, and content through cut-and-paste techniques, questioning the most essential tools of painting while contrasting the traditional technique and practice of painting with the newer, simpler, and faster methods.
Finger Paintings, conversely are color-blocked advertisements on which Oehlen has used brushes and rags, spray paint and his own hands to express a sentiment of tension between man and machine-made imagery. The result is a cluttered canvas, at once overstimulating and mesmerizing. Familiar font faces and blocks of color constantly interplay with the slurs and smudges of his movements across the canvas.
Born in 1954, Oehlen studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Hamburg, and from 2000-2009 served as a professor of painting at Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf. His work has been included in the 2013 Venice Biennale, and recent solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. A major exhibition of Oehlen’s work from the 1980s until the present will be on view at the Museum Wiesbaden, Germany from June 21 through September 21, 2014.
The current exhibition at Gagosian Beverly Hills will continue through July 18, 2014.
— E. Baker
Exhibition Page [Gagosian Gallery]