Albert Oehlen uses abstract, figurative, and collaged elements—often applying self-imposed formal constraints—to disrupt the histories and conventions of modern painting while acknowledging the continuing significance of classical art.
Approaching his practice as a perceptual challenge, he moves freely between planned and improvised strategies. And while championing self-consciously “bad” painting characterized by crude drawing and jarring coloration, he infuses expressive gesture with Surrealist attitude, disparaging the quest for stable form and meaning.
Oehlen’s latest works are focused on his cryptic Ömega Man motif, a genderless humanoid form inspired by the character of Dr. Robert Neville in the dystopian sci-fi action movie The Omega Man from 1971. As the doomed survivor of a global pandemic, Neville symbolizes the runaway scientific development that led to humanity’s downfall.
In Ömega Man 6 and 7 (both 2021), the figure’s off-kilter shape emerges from the misalignment of two grids of color; in other paintings its mottled silhouette is positioned against a bright yellow ground, recalling the combination of stark line and intense hues in the artist’s tree paintings.
It is also sometimes outlined in blue, red, and yellow, or rendered as a masked area of varied brushstrokes distinguishable only by its sharply differentiated boundaries.
Albert Oehlen is fascinated with works that are “on the way to becoming something else,” and that may exist in multiple forms and versions.
Albert Oehlen ist represented by Gagosian Gallery, https://gagosian.com as well as by Max Hetzler Gallery, https://www.maxhetzler.com
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