Lot 151
  • 151

Albert Oehlen

Estimate
300,000 - 400,000 GBP
Sold
668,750 GBP
bidding is closed

Description

  • Albert Oehlen
  • Nie mehr unter dem Exkrement Liegen
  • inkjet, acrylic and spray paint on canvas
  • Executed in 2002.

Provenance

Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin
Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Albert Oehlen, October - November 2002
Auvergne, FRAC: Fonds Regional d’Art Contemporain Auvergne, Albert Oehlen, March - May 2005, n.p., illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

“Oehlen tries to do with painting what others (Coltrane, Zappa) have attempted in jazz or rock: to immerse the listener in a burst of overlapping, saturated and expansive strata, getting rid of any story-line since there is no beginning nor end. This all thrusts forward, like in a cathode with a tremendous current. A kind of machine that transforms signs into intensities (…) Oehlen’s painting-machine is a mixer that flings objects, images and traces into outer space.”

PIERRE STERCKX

‘Albert Oehlen: Junk Screens’ in: Exh. Cat., Auvergne, FRAC: Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Auvergne, Albert Oehlen, March – May 2005, n.p.

“Oehlen’s use of fluorescent colors and a bit-mapped ink jet printer does not imply that he is trying to be technologically up-to-date (..). Beyond (or rather within) the current era, underscored by the paintings, arises a more profound desire to merge easel paintings with media screens, especially television and computer. Oehlen’s recent largesized works create a hypnotic effect, much like electronic magnetism.”

PIERRE STERCKX

Albert Oehlen: Junk Screens’ in: Exh. Cat., Auvergne, FRAC: Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Auvergne, Albert Oehlen, March – May 2005, n.p.


Executed on an imposing scale and in an intensely vibrant palette of colours, Albert Oehlen’s Nie Mehr Unter Exkrement Liegen captures some of the artist’s signature achievements in a stunning visual display. Composed of intricate layers of computer-generated imagery that are juxtaposed with hand-painted additions and washes of spaypaint, this powerful work is not only visually captivating but indeed an outstanding example of Oehlen’s unique take on painting in the contemporary era.

Having never adhered to a stylistic or aesthetic programme, Albert Oehlen’s eclectic oeuvre is perhaps best understood in terms of attitude, which equally characterised the punk-generation during which time Oehlen studied under Sigmar Polke. The artist’s approach to painting shares an irreverence towards the medium that was also explored by contemporaries such as Martin Kippenberger, Christopher Wool and Richard Prince –each of whom consciously attempted to undermine the very medium in which they were working. Many of Oehlen’s artistic projects come from this tension between the artist and his chosen medium: from his early attempts at ‘bad’ painting to the figurative paintings which he declared to be highly ironic, and indeed the paintings based on computer-generated imagery that in their very production process are quintessentially un-painterly from a material perspective.

If none of these paintings can be understood through a coherent programme, the best way to understand Albert Oehlen’s diverse body of work is through the notion of method, which he describes as a driving factor in his oeuvre and which is expressed through a series of self-imposed, sometimes absurd parameters within which he works. As the artist explains: “I have always liked the method. I don’t have theories; maybe that word is wrong, but I call it method, the method of painting” (Albert Oehlen in conversation with Andrea Tarsia, Exh. Cat., London, Whitechapel Gallery (and travelling), I Will Always Champion Good Painting; I Will Always Champion Bad Painting, 2006, n.p.).

The computer paintings are excellent examples of Oehlen’s highly postmodern approach to his chosen medium. The self-imposed parameters of the series are dictated by a number of drawings that were originally made on a computer in 1990, and which form the foundation for the series of paintings that includes Nie Mehr Unter Exkrement Liegen. After layering many of these digital drawings, creating a sense of depth that is unusual for the otherwise flat imagery, the artist then finishes the work with hand-painted additions.

Despite the rapid technological advances, Oehlen would almost exclusively revert back to the original drawings, which were highly pixelated due to the nature of the early software: “Almost all of the original designs on the computer were done in 1990; maybe two or three I made later (…) I bought a Texas Instruments laptop in 1990. The image resolution could only be pushed to a certain level at the time, so when I blew it up onto a two-metre canvas I saw I had these little pixellated stairs –one pixel was something like a 5 mm step” (Ibid. n.p.).

What originated from the limited capabilities of early 1990s computer software is transformed in Oehlen’s painting into a signature aesthetic –not just of the artist’s body of work, but indeed as a stylistic signifier for a generation that was first introduced to computer-generated imagery. Predating more recent experiments with computer paintings by artists such as Wade Guyton or Cory Arcangel by over a decade, Albert Oehlen’s series of computer paintings are not just highly important within his oeuvre, but within recent arthistory generally. In the same tradition of artists such as Andy Warhol and Gerhard Richter, whose painterly work developed in explicit dialogue with contemporary technologies such as photography and television, Albert Oehlen’s pixelated paintings brilliantly capture the visual impact that digital technologies had on the 1990s and early 2000s.

Bursting with colour and with a complex layering of imagery, both digital and hand-painted, Nie Mehr Unter Exkrement Liegen is therefore not only a visually stunning example of Albert Oehlen’s highly important series of computer paintings, but a captivating work that brilliantly captures the aesthetic of a crucial turning point in contemporary history –the emergence of computer-generated imagery.

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