The German title of the work, Müllflasche loosely translates to "bottle of rubbish," or more simply, trashcan. Such terminology provides a conceptual underpinning that elucidates Oehlen's trademark style of compiling utterly random, mundane imagery into one composition. Perhaps similar to the contents thrown in a tin of rubbish, some of the recognizable imagery is truncated, partly consumed or discarded. Though we catch a glimpse of objects such as a wheel, a Corinthian column, and the semblance of a masquerade mask, these items are washed over by various shades of paint, precluding their legibility or any sense that they might be somehow linked. This approach typifies Oehlen’s seditious style. While he uses figurative motifs, he makes no attempt to connect form to meaning. According to Oehlen, once we are engaged in painting – itself a perverse warp on reality – the tensions between abstract and figurative modes of depiction are immaterial, reduced to an absurd logic. In his own words: “In painting, you really have a completely absurd way of going about things. You’ve got something three-dimensional reduced to two dimensions, and that’s abstraction...The work you do, the reshaping of reality into the picture, is such a remarkable transformation that it really doesn’t matter much whether an apple is still recognizable as such or not…If you understand the accomplishments of abstract painting, then you don’t have to paint abstract at all anymore” (the artist in Hans Werner Holzwarth, Ed., Albert Oehlen, Cologne 2009, p. 188).
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