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Pages 1–7 and 45–51 / 第1–7頁和第45–51頁:

Installation views, Albert Oehlen: Unfertig, Lokremise, St. Gallen, Switzerland, July 6–November 10, 2019 展覽現場, 「阿爾伯特·厄倫:未完成」 ,Lokremise,聖加侖,瑞士, 2019年7月6日至11月10日。


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阿爾伯特·厄倫 新繪畫

ALBERT OEHLEN NEW PAINTINGS

高古軒香港

GAGOSIAN HONG KONG

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Christian Malycha

Fig. 1 / 圖 1

Kotzimmer《Kotzimmer 》1982年 Oil, lacquer, and mirror on canvas / 油彩、油漆和鏡子,畫布 74 7⁄8 × 63 inches / 吋 (190 × 160 cm / 厘米)

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RISK AND LIBERTY

Fig. 2 / 圖 2

Easter Nudes《復活節裸女 》1996年 Oil and acrylic on canvas / 油彩和油漆,畫布 74 1⁄4 × 106 3⁄4 inches / 吋 (191 × 271 cm / 厘米)

Christian Malycha

Albert Oehlen set out as a painter in the late 1970s. It was a time out of joint. A time when all modernist hopes for progress had become obsolete. Given German history, terrorism, “No Future,” and NineteenEighty-Four as well as the permanent threat of all-out nuclear war, painting could not pretend that the world was safe and sound. As modernism shattered, so did modern painting. At any rate, Oehlen was not about to question the “modern” image. What he did was far more essential and riskier. He did not distance himself from painting. Instead, he stepped right into the battle over the declining form. He presented painting in its brokenness. As symbols, signs, and means were damaged and became devoid of meaning, he provocatively and consciously demonstrated this very evacuation. One might add that he did so defiantly as well, because he did not intend to give up painting just like that. Rather, he presented the painted image as a massive disruption of the daily visual continuum. Since then, he has fomented the conflict between the outdated ideas of what a painting is supposed to be and reality: his early Mirror Paintings (fig. 1) reveal the viewer to be part of the pervasive painterly and historical ruins. Way ahead of their time, his Computer Paintings (fig. 2) incorporate the epoch-making digital turn into their own materiality. His collages, Finger Paintings (fig. 4), and, recently, Tree Paintings (fig. 5) unmask painting in all its dubiousness. How is one to tell, these days, authentic gesture from blunt reproduction, genuine emotion from a disillusioned readymade copy? Due to this irruption of real time into his painting, none of Oehlen’s series resembles the others — at least, not if observed with levity. If painting is battered, so are all traditions, subject matter, and motifs. Everything formerly obligatory in painting is done for. Oehlen accepts the shattering and transforms it into the basis of his painting. His paintings are neither romantic nor nostalgic. They do not attempt to undo this loss. He rather invents an overtly fragmented image—an image as unbound, unruly, and agile as the reality in which it partakes. Oehlen does not dwell in the past, nor does he roam the future. He situates himself in the thick of the present. Unswervingly, his paintings register an ever-new nowness. Traces, stimuli, and afterimages of reality flash stroboscopically across his canvases; no matter how disparate these intrusions might be, evidently, they have to be dealt with in every new work. Oehlen sets up a highly complicated initial situation and with every new painting ventures into uncertainty. Time and time again, he starts from scratch, without any safeguards. The lack of existence of a simple whole is no reason for him to bow out of painting as a matter of reflection. On the contrary, it is a kind of a peculiar feedback loop into the real that makes his position more relevant and unique than ever in regard to today’s painting. This is especially true because his paintings evoke pure contemporaneity. Oehlen’s conceptual approach unifies his oeuvre, despite stylistic differences among the works themselves. It is through this attitude that he has achieved an exceptional degree of painterly liberty. Liberty and risk. Oehlen’s paintings are constantly courting danger. It is a productive risk for him, however, as he updates and renews the possibilities and impossibilities of painting with each new series, thereby granting an appropriate form to a diffuse reality in the first place. ...

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Fig. 3 / 圖 3

Mönch und Nonne《僧侶和修女 》1996年 Oil on canvas / 油彩,畫布 94 1⁄2 × 94 1⁄2 inches / 吋 (240 × 240 cm / 厘米)

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Fig. 4 / 圖 4

Untitled《無題 》2011年 Oil and paper on canvas / 油彩和紙本,畫布 106 3⁄8 × 122 1⁄8 inches / 吋 (270 × 310 cm / 厘米)

In early 2019, Oehlen spent a few months in Los Angeles, admittedly with no intention of doing anything new. He felt a vague longing for change, however, and the absence of intent unexpectedly brought forth the painterly act. He experimented with novel materials and modified his palette. At first, he used diverse hues, initially acrylics, later watercolors. Though the properties of watercolors are usually associated with intimate formats, Oehlen employed them differently. Eventually, ten untitled paintings emerged, each one enormous. Via abundant gestures, undulating bands, and sparsely placed beams, the delicate watercolors seize the canvases. Oehlen’s new paintings are as unexpected as his use of color. Geometric constructions and supporting structures have disappeared. The pictorial fields lie bare, apparently carried solely by the immediate movements of the brushstrokes. The strokes of watercolor are tender and frail; they broaden and, at diverse tempos and varying rhythms, open up the planes. They appear confident and then again cautiously tentative, as though Oehlen did not know where they would lead him. From one image to the next, you can see how he trusts the colors and tests the new paintings and the possibilities they offer. You see his extreme pictorial experiments: ease and carefully measured sparseness in one painting, sprawling overabundance in another. Clear primary contrast in red, yellow, and blue or the fierce chiaroscuro of black and white are pitted against an array of hues ranging from light green, pink, and brown to crimson and turquoise. Oehlen’s unmistakable, ornamentally intertwined lines collide with his equally distinctive obliterations and stains. Emblematic gestures alternate with planar textures. Abruptly, fuzzy passages clear up and all of a sudden sharpedged contours blur. Such antagonisms govern Oehlen’s practice— between explicitly accentuated marks and his unsparing effacings, fundamental uncertainty and the painterly reflection upon it. There are no figures, no objects, no writings in the new paintings, only color. And color causes everything. It has enormous presence and suffuses the paintings in bright light. The harmonization of hues is extremely sensual and quite likely a California influence. The transparent watercolors detach themselves from everything corporeal. Radiantly, they flow onto the airy planes. The translucent colors have considerable depth. They illuminate the whole pictorial space and offer innumerable perspectives. Along the entangled bands of color, the gaze glides astray, only to be drawn back into point-blank range. Colors overlap and permeate each other, appearing to visually hover. They glimmer or flicker like atmospheric, almost immaterial phenomena of light. ... But no matter how graceful this may sound, Oehlen’s endeavor is not that easy. He is suspicious of all classical pictorial means and mandatory techniques of composition. To him they are used up and wasted. His images are the polar opposite of all bravura painting, and he suspends all traditional image concepts, yet he does not reject painting as such. What he rejects are its makeshift conventions. He does not plan out his paintings — they aren’t preconceived. There is no figuration or preceding composition. Methodically, Oehlen disables any composition, first and foremost trusting in the unpredictable act of painting. Given their turbulent formation, it is astonishing how serene these new paintings appear, as they are still risky propositions with an uncertain outcome. If you think you have perceived a grid of some kind, you have only spotted its dented and shattered remains. The question is how a painting may be accomplished with nothing but

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Fig. 5 / 圖 5

Untitled (Baum 30)《 無題(樹30)》2015年 Oil on Dibond / 油彩,Dibond複合板 118 1⁄8 × 78 3⁄4 inches / 吋 (300 × 200 cm / 厘米)

mere color. Each painting stands alone. There are no overarching ideas—rather, each painting’s oppositional pictorial elements shape its character. Oehlen compresses and bends, stretches, folds, staggers, pushes, drags, and seizes all painterly means at his disposal. His images are not unified, but manifold. Amidst the painting process, he effectively compiles his images out of single hues, gestures, directions, and movements of color. The painterly act is sometimes an arduous one. Pictorial coherence is not determined by content or motifs; the paintings are restrained due to relations that are as individual, varied, and unpredictable as Oehlen’s color gestures. Each stroke has its own temperament—exaggerated, shy or hesitant, playful. Brusquely, colors push one another aside. Placidly, they give each other space. Unceasingly, they generate turmoil throughout the paintings but create synergy across them as well. The white grounds play the biggest part in this, as they are the most exposed. The white space is empty and has no center—at least, no compositional center. The colors are far too independent to subordinate themselves under any structure. Cunningly, Oehlen smears the middle, covers and veils it, or clears it out altogether. He aggregates immense centrifugal force and drives all movements out of the center or scatters them about. This effectuates tremendous dynamics. Nothing is static; there is no discernible orientation, no prominent formulation, nothing centrally placed. He disperses the drifting colors or he fans out lines and bulky beams in edgy intervals. The contrasts are jumpy. The planes fracture, becoming sites of transition and transgression, with all the elements concentrating in remote places and on the fringes of the canvas. Between these zones of gravitation, Oehlen anchors his paintings, binding them together from the outside. Meanwhile, the paintings, with their obvious tendency toward openness and liberty, appear well assembled and precise, presenting a clear contradiction. How can they be spontaneous and perfectly balanced, even controlled, at the same time? Oehlen’s painting is an indefinite activity with a definite result. Regardless, he allows “maximum chance” in his paintings, even though every immediate proposition has a calculated counterpart. The paintings are vibrant fields of resonance. Gestures, strokes, and layers of color—everything responds to everything else. Pressure and relief reject or reverberate with each other affectionately. Oehlen lets all this happen. Simultaneously, he decides what remains on the canvas and what does not. This “maximum control” results in the fundamental fragmentation’s ultimate cohesion into one image. To this day, however, he moves along a fine line between failure and success, between adventurous spontaneity and thoughtful painterly knowledge. The ten new paintings he made in Los Angeles might seem unfamiliar — oddly gentle, thoughtful, and even mature on the one hand, but, after all these years, still agitated and risky on the other. The paintings are unrestrained and agile, interminable and vivid. Yet they offer the viewer the chance to contemplate and recollect an experience equally perpetual: one must engage oneself in a confusingly difficult world and connect its loose ends in order to assume one’s own stance. This is the challenge the work offers and, as Albert Oehlen emphasizes, an opportunity, for everyone is “searching for something without knowing what [he or she is] looking for.”

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新繪畫

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NEW PAINTINGS

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Untitled 《無題》 2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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作品清單

LIST OF WORKS

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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PAGE / 頁 25

PAGE / 頁 29

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Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

Untitled 《無題》2019 Watercolor on canvas / 水彩 畫布 84 1⁄4 × 72 1⁄4 inches / 吋 (214 × 183.5 cm / 厘米)

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Published on the occasion of the exhibition

Albert Oehlen New Paintings September 12–October 26, 2019 Gagosian 7/F Pedder Building 12 Pedder Street Central, Hong Kong +852 2151 0555 gagosian.com Publication © 2019 Gagosian All artwork © Albert Oehlen Risk and Liberty © Christian Malycha Directors: Stefan

Ratibor and Nick Simunovic McDonald Publication manager: Darlina Goldak Exhibition manager: Victoria Eatough Gagosian coordinators: Xiao Hu, Melissa Lazarov, Alexander Whittaker, Penny Yeung, and Alice Zhong Managing editor: Alison

Copy editor: Polly

Watson

Design: Purtill

Family Business, Los Angeles Los Angeles Printing: Pureprint, Uckfield, England Color separations: Artproduct,

Photography: pp. 1, 2–3, 4–5, 6–7, 16–17, 18, 19, 20, 45, 46–47, 48–49, and 50–51: Esther Freund; p. 10: Jörg von Bruchhausen; pp. 11 and 12: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris; p. 13: Mike Bruce; p. 15: Stuart Burford; and pp. 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 42, and 43: Jeff McLane

Albert Oehlen and Gagosian would like to thank Jutta Küpper for her invaluable support and expertise in realizing this exhibition and publication. We are grateful to Esther Freund for her photography. Thanks are also due to Christian Malycha for his insightful text and enthusiasm throughout the project. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reprinted or reproduced in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information retrieval system, without prior written permission from the copyright holders. ISBN 978-1-938748-88-2


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Profile for Gagosian Quarterly

Albert Oehlen: New Paintings  

Albert Oehlen: New Paintings  

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