Albert Oehlen

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Exploring both abstraction and figuration, Albert Oehlen's work is characterized by rejection of what is considered to be beautiful or visually appealing, displaying an air of deliberate amateurism.

Albert Oehlen Prints

Artist Biography

Albert Oehlen

B. 1954

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Albert Oehlen was born in 1954 in Krefeld, Germany. Oehlen studied at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg in Germany from 1978 to 1981 and quickly rose to prominence in the Berlin and Cologne art scenes.

Straddling various debates surrounding the nature of painting, Oehlen’s work deconstructs the medium to its constituent elements; color, gesture, motion, and time, and evolves out of constraints he applied to his artistic process. Through expressionist brushwork, surrealist methodology, and self-conscious amateurism Oehlen engages with the history of abstract painting, pushing the basic components of abstraction to new extremes.

Albert Oehlen, Let me kill my devil baby, 2000
Albert Oehlen, Kiefers Brain is still alive, 2000

Characterized by a rejection of what is considered to be beautiful or visually appealing, his work displays an air of deliberate amateurism. Alongside his many rules, he allows a certain awkwardness or ugliness to enter his work, introducing unsettling gestures, crudely drawn figures, visceral smears of artificial pigments, bold hues, and flesh tones. In this way, Oehlen attests to the infinite combinations of form made possible through painting, and demonstrates that these combinations can be manipulated at the artist’s will to produce novel perceptual challenges for the viewer.

Oehlen’s work has been exhibited in several major international institutions including the Guggenheim, Bilbao, the New Museum, New York, the Kunsthalle, Basel and Palazzo Grassi, Venice. His work is included in collections including, The Saatchi Gallery, London, Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK), Frankfurt/Main, Neue Galeria Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, Graz among others.

Albert Oehlen lives and works in Bühlen, Switzerland.

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