Albert Oehlen

Serpentine Gallery

2 Oct 2019 to 2 Feb 2020

Albert Oehlen

Admission Free

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The Serpentine is delighted to announce a major exhibition by Albert Oehlen.

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Albert Oehlen (b. 1954, Krefeld, Germany) has been a key figure in contemporary art since the 1980s. By bringing together abstract, figurative, collaged and computer-generated elements on the canvas, he continues to explore an inventive diversity of artistic approaches. Through Expressionist brushwork, Surrealist gestures and deliberate amateurism, Oehlen engages with the history of painting, pushing its essential components of colour, gesture, motion and time to bold new extremes. 

From 1978 to 1981, Oehlen studied at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg under painter Sigmar Polke. Subsequently, he quickly rose to prominence, moving between different artist groups and scenes in Berlin and Cologne. It was during this time  in the 1980s that these artists sought to create works that defied categorisation and contradicted the existing artistic status quo. Oehlen’s practice has since traversed diverse movements and styles, combining narrative and abstraction, blending the handmade with the electronic and machinic in his computer or ‘bionic’ paintings, and experimenting with form, tone and texture  within set, premeditated parameters in his ‘grey’ and ‘tree’ paintings. 

This exhibition at the Serpentine focuses on a recurring thread in Oehlen’s practice through a selection of works dating from the 1980s until the present day, which are brought together under the rubric of the John Graham Remix series. Taking its title from the eponymous American Modernist figurative painter, this body of work appropriates elements of Graham’s painting, Tramonto Spaventoso (‘Terrifying Sunset’) (1940 – 49), which have then been interpreted, remixed and reconfigured by Oehlen across multiple compositions. Graham’s painting becomes a singular starting point for the artist’s experimentation, ‘a vehicle  for endless interpretation’ that he has continued to return to throughout his career. 

The unique architecture of the Serpentine Gallery, in particular its domed central space, is the site of a new installation that forms part of Oehlen’s interpretation of  the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, founded by John and Dominique de Menil, located  in Houston, Texas. A selection of new paintings based on Graham’s painting, which match the scale and size of the four horizontal  paintings by American painter Mark Rothko displayed in the original chapel’s interior spaces, are exhibited at the Serpentine  for the first time. Permeating this gallery is a newly configured soundtrack by the hardcore, avant-garde trio ensemble, Steamboat Switzerland, playing at intervals throughout the day, which draws connections between the movements, rhythms  and systems of music and the internal strategies of Oehlen’s paintings. 

Oehlen’s site-specific response to the Serpentine Gallery follows his interest in extending the internal logics of his paintings to the sites in which they are exhibited. It is this significance of architecture that results in unique installations that have a distinctly mutable relationship to space. As the artist says:

‘I am not interested in the idea of staging my work in a space specifically  conceived for it. I think that art should adapt to the architecture or fight with it.’

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Related Events / Exhibitions

Live

Serpentine Gallery

Saturday Talks: Joseph Constable on Albert Oehlen

1 Feb 2020 - 3:00 PM

Assistant Exhibitions Curator Joseph Constable leads a tour of the Albert Oehlen exhibition. BSL interpretation is available on request for all our Saturday Talks. Visit our BSL page for more information.

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Live

Serpentine Gallery

Saturday Talks: Claude Adjil on Albert Oehlen

25 Jan 2020 - 3:00 PM

Curator at Large of Live Programmes Claude Adjil leads a tour of the Albert Oehlen exhibition. BSL interpretation is available on request for all our Saturday Talks. Visit our BSL page for more information.

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Albert Oehlen Film – Endless Possibilities of Interpretation

Thursday, 5th December 2019
Installation image of Abgaskopf 1998 / 1984, Albert Oehlen

Installation image of Abgaskopf 1998 / 1984, Albert Oehlen

Alber Oehlen (Installation view of Abgaskopf 1998 / 1984 Oil on canvas 192 x 192.6 cm The Albertina Museum, Vienna. The Essl Collection) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info
Albert Oehlen (Installation view, 2 October 2019 – 2 February 2020, Serpentine Galleries) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info

Install 3

Albert Oehlen (Installation view, 2 October 2019 – 2 February 2020, Serpentine Galleries) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info
Installation image of Grünaug – Dunkelaug 1997, Albert Oehlen

Installation image of Grünaug – Dunkelaug 1997, Albert Oehlen

Albert Oehlen (Installation view of Grünaug – Dunkelaug 1997 Oil on canvas 200 x 240 cm Courtesy the artist) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info

Albert Oehlen (Installation view, 2 October 2019 – 2 February 2020, Serpentine Galleries) © 2019 Photo: Tomas Rydin

Install 4

Albert Oehlen (Installation view, 2 October 2019 – 2 February 2020, Serpentine Galleries) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info
Albert Oehlen (Installation view, 2 October 2019 – 2 February 2020, Serpentine Galleries) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info

Install 2

Albert Oehlen (Installation view, 2 October 2019 – 2 February 2020, Serpentine Galleries) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info
Vorfahrt für immer, 1998, Mixed media on canvas, 196 x 196 cm, Private Collection, Düsseldorf. © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info

install 1

Alber Oehlen (Installation view of Vorfahrt für immer, 1998, Mixed media on canvas, 196 x 196 cm, Private Collection, Düsseldorf) © 2019 Photo: readsreads.info

Albert Oehlen, Check Up, 1994

Albert Oehlen

Check Up, 1994

Photo: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris

Albert Oehlen, Arrogantes Genie am Steuer, 1999

Albert Oehlen

Arrogantes Genie am Steuer, 1999

Photo: Jörg + Philipp von Bruchhausen

Albert Oehlen, Ohne Titel, 1993

Albert Oehlen

Ohne Titel, 1993

Photo: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris

Albert Oehlen, Ohne Titel (Schellen), 1988

Albert Oehlen

Ohne Titel (Schellen), 1988

Photo: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris

Albert Oehlen, Selbstportrait mit Pferd, 1985

Albert Oehlen, Selbstportrait mit Pferd, 1985

Albert Oehlen

Selbstportrait mit Pferd, 1985

Photo: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris

Albert Oehlen, Ohne Titel, 1989

Albert Oehlen

Ohne Titel, 1989

Photo: Archive Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris