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Albert Oehlen

Born 1954.
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Albert Oehlen Biography

Born in Krefeld, West Germany, in 1954, Albert Oehlen belongs to a generation of new wave German Expressionists who set out to question, challenge and radically transform the face of painting in the wake of World War II. Having grown up in a post-war, guilt-ridden country, Oehlen sought to rid himself from the shackles of the past and create a new pictorial language befitting of his contemporary moment. Beginning his artistic training at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg, Oehlen studied under Sigmar Polke until 1981. Over a prolific career spanning more than four decades, he has experimented with an array of approaches, materials and techniques ranging from representational painting, Abstract Expressionist brushstrokes and graffiti, to computer-generated elements, textiles and installations. Amongst his best-known and most sought-after series are his Bad, Grey, Computer, and John Graham Remix paintings, as much as his ongoing and career-long cycle of Self-Portraits.

Alongside his fellow artist, close friend, and drinking partner Martin Kippenberger, Oehlen was the enfant terrible of 1980s Cologne. Oehlen and Kippenberger subscribed to the notion of “bad painting” that was rife amongst their contemporaries, deliberately rejecting aesthetic standards and practices and seeking instead “to get as far away from meaning as possible” (Albert Oehlen cited in: Sean O’Hagan, ‘Albert Oehlen: “There’s something hysterical about magenta,”’ The Guardian, 5 February 2016, online). Developed out of the era of pop, punk and rock, Oehlen’s explosive, eclectic and highly innovative output is closely associated with German counterculture movements. The artist has always been deeply involved and dependent on music – he performed in punk bands in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and is an avowed fan of Jazz – and its influence on his dynamic and punchy pictorial language, which merges elements of figuration with abstraction, is extensive.

In playfully reinventing, reshaping and restyling the act of painting over the last 40 years, Oehlen has become one of the most original and inventive artists of our time. He has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, the United States and beyond, and his works are housed in many of the most prestigious museum collections across the world including the Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; and the Museum Für Moderne Kunst, MMK, Frankfurt, to name only a few.

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