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Published on the occasion of the exhibition Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees February 28–April 15, 2017 Gagosian 522 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011 T. 212.741.1717 www.gagosian.com Publication © 2017 Gagosian All artwork © Albert Oehlen Red and Black, Color after All © Andreas van Dühren, translated from the original German by Russell Stockman Director: Stefan Ratibor Exhibition manager: Jona Lueddeckens Managing editor: Alison McDonald Publication manager: Darlina Goldak Gagosian coordinators: Emily Florido, Melissa Lazarov, Ludmila Lekes, Gabriela Scopazzi, Allison Smith, and Sylvana Valeri Copy editor: Polly Watson Designed by Goto Design, New York Color separations by Echelon, Los Angeles Printed by The Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis Photography of tree paintings by Stefan Rohner Photography of elevator paintings and installation by Rob McKeever Albert Oehlen and Gagosian would like to thank Jutta Küpper, Esther Freund, and Maya Oehlen for their continued and invaluable support, as well as Andreas van Dühren for his insightful text. 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 978-1-938748-43-1


Published on the occasion of the exhibition Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees February 28–April 15, 2017 Gagosian 522 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011 T. 212.741.1717 www.gagosian.com Publication © 2017 Gagosian All artwork © Albert Oehlen Red and Black, Color after All © Andreas van Dühren, translated from the original German by Russell Stockman Director: Stefan Ratibor Exhibition manager: Jona Lueddeckens Managing editor: Alison McDonald Publication manager: Darlina Goldak Gagosian coordinators: Emily Florido, Melissa Lazarov, Ludmila Lekes, Gabriela Scopazzi, Allison Smith, and Sylvana Valeri Copy editor: Polly Watson Designed by Goto Design, New York Color separations by Echelon, Los Angeles Printed by The Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis Photography of tree paintings by Stefan Rohner Photography of elevator paintings and installation by Rob McKeever Albert Oehlen and Gagosian would like to thank Jutta Küpper, Esther Freund, and Maya Oehlen for their continued and invaluable support, as well as Andreas van Dühren for his insightful text. 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 978-1-938748-43-1


Published on the occasion of the exhibition Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees February 28–April 15, 2017 Gagosian 522 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011 T. 212.741.1717 www.gagosian.com Publication © 2017 Gagosian All artwork © Albert Oehlen Red and Black, Color after All © Andreas van Dühren, translated from the original German by Russell Stockman Director: Stefan Ratibor Exhibition manager: Jona Lueddeckens Managing editor: Alison McDonald Publication manager: Darlina Goldak Gagosian coordinators: Emily Florido, Melissa Lazarov, Ludmila Lekes, Gabriela Scopazzi, Allison Smith, and Sylvana Valeri Copy editor: Polly Watson Designed by Goto Design, New York Color separations by Echelon, Los Angeles Printed by The Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis Photography of tree paintings by Stefan Rohner Photography of elevator paintings and installation by Rob McKeever Albert Oehlen and Gagosian would like to thank Jutta Küpper, Esther Freund, and Maya Oehlen for their continued and invaluable support, as well as Andreas van Dühren for his insightful text. 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 978-1-938748-43-1


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Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees

Gagosian New York 3 328106_guts.indd 3

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Red and Black, Color after All Andreas van Dühren

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In youth one tends to get uneasy when hearing the word experience. With it the elders seem to erect a wall, an inadmissible generalization of their own past. Every artist may be out for conquest and enrichment, only that at the beginning he is impatient to transcend the conventions, the law, in favor of his own claims, not to be weakened by too many obligations. Yet one gets used to another word, practice, and from all it implies some other kind of courage derives. One proceeds to respond not only to one’s idols and fellows, but more and more to oneself—someone who has already taken on and off so many shapes. It is practice that generates true ideas, though these are not vanishing like those masks the artist has assumed over the years and in cold blood; they combine with each other and coin their own vocabulary. Dealing with such a system of signs one has designed oneself only in some part, and for all that kind of empowerment, one enters a critical state when mere plenty becomes frightening; a whole work begins to dissolve in contingency, and the artist finds himself confronted with what was supposed to be his own as some neutral phenomenon. There is a certain logic in searching for a solution in abstraction—in restraining from what is given in ordinary arrangements, as from what only seem to be natural clues of conception. Abstraction means a certain simplification, going for a condition in which things can be presented as matters. Meanwhile, trained in designing himself, the artist encounters those very regularities he initially felt were just blocking his way and which now appear to him as something he enacted on his own throughout his career. The ideas have in themselves almost turned into subjects, making ground for a new kind of freedom. Over the past years Albert Oehlen presented a series of paintings, all named, with some reservation (that is, in parentheses), for one single object: Baum (tree). Red and black appear against an equally light ground, the one in variations of the square, the other in courses, swinging or suggesting braces, compacting or rolling up to larger planes. It is an experimental disposition for acting out relations—between the two mentioned elements and between these and the given field. The black takes on something like a representative function, as it rather refers to the hand: stroke, application, the idea of execution—these are permitted, though not conclusive, associations, not exposing the picture to some cliché of subjectivity. One is well-advised to trust that statement of two bodies, with one of them—more mobile, more flexible—apparently measuring the other, relativizing it, even testing its possible usage.

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Now the beholder should be wary of further interpretation, especially in terms of narratives, and even avoid equating the title with the subject: Baum does not necessarily mean anything beyond the name of a series of works. What remains is the impression of division and dissection, of a skeptical montage; the experimental quality implies that there is no fixed conclusion. Yet every picture is a fact already. And this may be the right way to understand the aim for a kind of reduction that does not concern this or that pretext but design itself. Painting, then, may be just the medium the artist has adopted—this matter of greatest complexity, which makes it all the more worthwhile to explore it in the simplest formulations. Courage and freedom, as we said before, may be attained once again—probably a second critical point—when art denotes not so much a profession as the most natural attitude: like the pronoun I, which opens up everything. Also it is experience, what had been too much of a strange framework early on, that has become just a mode of reality one shares with the details. One cannot banish from painting the historical moment; the picture asserts itself in the present. In addition, Oehlen now shows paintings in which color follows an expanded derivation. Combining these with that series creates a span, not so much a retrogression as an unfolding: the clearly contoured next to the blurred, openness versus the compressed, the constructive against an improvised morphology, also a dissociation of the primal from the earthy—with this sense of possibility, as it has been awakened, one still gropes for some consent, again broken by creative energy. The transfer of that energy to the beholder—who thus outgrows his role—unawares becomes fateful for the artist: the temptations of interpretation are one condition of that newly acquired freedom. Incidentally, every exhibition is also a theory. The tiny word I, with which all thinking begins, has to find its value in combination with others. Beauty, which one assumes derives from some precedent, can only be reproduced. Every concept, even more design itself, goes for an organization of anything possible. The trivial statement, that color is the medium of painting, actually claims a totalizing ambition: to turn something one can just sense as given into some invention. A more analytical view of the two groups of works suggests that the relation of plane and space has been weighed in different ways, while a common

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tendency to see either a stage or a landscape stretched out in a painting meets some contradictions. The Baum series draws the material one liked to comprehend thematically onto one level, as though pressed under glass, and offers an algebraic version of what we carelessly were about to project onto it. In the strictly untitled works the testing grounds may be spread out equally; color left to itself, however, becomes a body. Emphasis on the specific refines a differentiation through which the picture has to unveil itself. Sometimes one believes to figure out an incidence of light—a seasoned invitation to assume something like a drama. . . . One should not avoid the traps of imagination without also considering that the notion of abstraction does not provide an escape from language. It seemed plausible to equate the reduction of the palette to black and white with a generalization to an alleged essence of things. Color retains the phenomenal to the point of offensiveness; no explanation of its elements transposes it into another realm—for which it is always just another word. To take up that work title—a tree is no random object of contemplation: one cannot cast a glance on it long without attuning one’s thinking to a specific motion; even if one focuses on it, the tree will involve ambience, influence, origin; besides, it recalls that there is no structure without intention. It makes sense to employ such an object in the context of a test series in order to sound out relationships: it seems to save a formula for classification and variety. Since every exhibition targets an integral, the combination of these two groups of works may reflect a fundamental observation: color claims for itself a realm that cannot be divested from any subject. Here it appears on different horizons. In the untitled paintings, area is congruent with state; the Baum pictures present, like billboards, world models in which red and black become talking figures.

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Trees

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Untitled (Baum 79), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 61), 2015 Oil on Dibond 49 3/16 × 32 5/16 inches (125 × 82 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 66), 2016 Oil on Dibond 147 5/8 × 98 7/16 inches (375 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 81), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 71), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 70), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 84), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 78), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 76), 2016 Oil on Dibond 147 5/8 × 98 7/16 inches (375 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 60), 2015 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 82), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 77), 2016 Oil on Dibond 147 5/8 × 98 7/16 inches (375 × 250 cm)

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Untitled (Baum 72), 2016 Oil on Dibond 98 7/16 × 98 7/16 inches (250 × 250 cm)

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Published on the occasion of the exhibition Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees February 28–April 15, 2017 Gagosian 522 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011 T. 212.741.1717 www.gagosian.com Publication © 2017 Gagosian All artwork © Albert Oehlen Red and Black, Color after All © Andreas van Dühren, translated from the original German by Russell Stockman Director: Stefan Ratibor Exhibition manager: Jona Lueddeckens Managing editor: Alison McDonald Publication manager: Darlina Goldak Gagosian coordinators: Emily Florido, Melissa Lazarov, Ludmila Lekes, Gabriela Scopazzi, Allison Smith, and Sylvana Valeri Copy editor: Polly Watson Designed by Goto Design, New York Color separations by Echelon, Los Angeles Printed by The Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis Photography of tree paintings by Stefan Rohner Photography of elevator paintings and installation by Rob McKeever Albert Oehlen and Gagosian would like to thank Jutta Küpper, Esther Freund, and Maya Oehlen for their continued and invaluable support, as well as Andreas van Dühren for his insightful text. 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 978-1-938748-43-1


Published on the occasion of the exhibition Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees February 28–April 15, 2017 Gagosian 522 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011 T. 212.741.1717 www.gagosian.com Publication © 2017 Gagosian All artwork © Albert Oehlen Red and Black, Color after All © Andreas van Dühren, translated from the original German by Russell Stockman Director: Stefan Ratibor Exhibition manager: Jona Lueddeckens Managing editor: Alison McDonald Publication manager: Darlina Goldak Gagosian coordinators: Emily Florido, Melissa Lazarov, Ludmila Lekes, Gabriela Scopazzi, Allison Smith, and Sylvana Valeri Copy editor: Polly Watson Designed by Goto Design, New York Color separations by Echelon, Los Angeles Printed by The Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis Photography of tree paintings by Stefan Rohner Photography of elevator paintings and installation by Rob McKeever Albert Oehlen and Gagosian would like to thank Jutta Küpper, Esther Freund, and Maya Oehlen for their continued and invaluable support, as well as Andreas van Dühren for his insightful text. 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 978-1-938748-43-1


Published on the occasion of the exhibition Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees February 28–April 15, 2017 Gagosian 522 West 21st Street New York, NY 10011 T. 212.741.1717 www.gagosian.com Publication © 2017 Gagosian All artwork © Albert Oehlen Red and Black, Color after All © Andreas van Dühren, translated from the original German by Russell Stockman Director: Stefan Ratibor Exhibition manager: Jona Lueddeckens Managing editor: Alison McDonald Publication manager: Darlina Goldak Gagosian coordinators: Emily Florido, Melissa Lazarov, Ludmila Lekes, Gabriela Scopazzi, Allison Smith, and Sylvana Valeri Copy editor: Polly Watson Designed by Goto Design, New York Color separations by Echelon, Los Angeles Printed by The Avery Group at Shapco Printing, Minneapolis Photography of tree paintings by Stefan Rohner Photography of elevator paintings and installation by Rob McKeever Albert Oehlen and Gagosian would like to thank Jutta Küpper, Esther Freund, and Maya Oehlen for their continued and invaluable support, as well as Andreas van Dühren for his insightful text. 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 978-1-938748-43-1


Profile for Gagosian Quarterly

Albert Oehlen: Elevator Paintings: Trees  

Albert Oehlen: Elevator Paintings: Trees  

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