Lot 469
  • 469

Albert Oehlen

600,000 - 800,000 USD
1,215,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Albert Oehlen
  • Müllflasche
  • signed, titled and dated 04 on the reverse
  • oil on canvas


Luhring Augustine, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006


New York, Luhring Augustine, Albert Oehlen: Painter of Light, September - October 2006

Catalogue Note

Executed on an imposing scale and in an intensely vibrant palette of colors, Albert Oehlen’s Müllflasche from 2004 captures the artist’s signature visual lexicon that slips gracefully between abstraction and figuration. Composed of intricate layers of hard-edged imagery juxtaposed with hand-painted additions, Müllflasche lures us into the canvas through an entrancing clash of simultaneous depth and flatness. As Pierre Sterckx elaborates, "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., FRAC: Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain Auvergne, Albert Oehlen, 2005, n.p.). Having pioneered a series of Computer Paintings beginning in the 1990s, Oehlen is notorious for exploring the pictorial tension between the handmade and the digitally produced. An expansion of the same interests that grounded his computer-inspired series, Müllflasche marks Oehlen's continued play with disparate imagery that is both familiar and alien, ultimately aiming to redefine the conventional rules of painting. 

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).