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Albert Oehlen (b. 1954)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Albert Oehlen (b. 1954)

Untitled

Details
Albert Oehlen (b. 1954)
Untitled
oil on canvas
94 ½ x 78 5/8in. (240 x 199.6cm.)
Painted in 1989
Provenance
Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin.
Thomas Dane Gallery, London.
Private Collection, London.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's London, 12 October 2007, lot 63.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Literature
H.W. Holzwarth (ed.), Albert Oehlen, Cologne 2009, p. 649 (illustrated in colour, p. 172).
Exhibited
Santa Monica, Luhring Augustine/ Hetzler, Albert Oehlen, 1989.
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘Spain was extremely productive … For me it was the start of my abstract paintings, a radical revolution in my painting, the decisive step in my development’
–Albert Oehlen


Painted on a dramatic scale, Albert Oehlen’s Untitled is a virtuosic frenzy of techniques that marks the birth of his celebrated abstract period. Executed in a palette that contrasts organic greens, yellows, dun and russet with intense black, gleaming white and a shock of violet, the work offers an extraordinary panoply of painterly textures: from feverish furls to smooth brown curves, from rapid, dashed lines to a tranquil patch of settled white. Untitled stems from 1989: the year after Oehlen’s pivotal sojourn in Andalusia with his close friend and fellow painter Martin Kippenberger. During this period, the artist broke with his early figurative idiom and launched into the unique abstract mode that has animated much of his oeuvre since. ‘Spain,’ Oehlen has explained, ‘was extremely productive … For me it was the start of my abstract paintings, a radical revolution in my painting, the decisive step in my development’ (A. Oehlen, quoted in S. Kippenberger, Kippenberger: The Artist and his Families, Berlin 2007, p. 343). Cerebral yet spontaneous, a master of both expressivity and exactitude, Oehlen conceived his oeuvre as a ceaseless voyager through the outer reaches of his medium. The present work’s intersection of colours and textures create a tableau of constant flux, as if it not yet fixed in its final formation.

Oehlen has called his style ‘post-non-representational,’ betokening a move away from the entirely abstract work of postwar American painters such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Indeed, Untitled contains some intimations of figuration. There is, for instance, a string of black orbs on the central right area of the canvas; on the left side there are black lines that appear almost to be the edges of a discrete object. Oehlen refuses to grant these features concrete signification, allowing them to remain enigmatic, the forms they might represent neither present or not present. As the curator Hamza Walker describes them, Oehlen’s canvases are ‘a chorus of contradictory gestures; figuration is set against abstraction, form against anti-form, the rhythm of pattern versus a meandering stroke, and a muddy mix of colours juxtaposed against vibrant pigment straight from the tube’ (H. Walker, ‘The Good, the Bad, the Ugly’, in Albert Oehlen: Recent Paintings, exh. cat., The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, Chicago, 1995, http:// renaissancesociety.org/publishing/90/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly [accessed 31 August 2018]). Untitled’s explosive cacophony of paint encapsulates this approach. Its chaotic arrangement and diversity of concept draws attention to the process of painting itself, turning Oehlen’s adrift application into its subject matter. ‘For me,’ he says, ‘painting is about trying to get as far away from meaning as possible, which is perhaps the most difficult thing of all. Really, I am just trying to make something new every time’ (A. Oehlen, quoted in S. O’Hagan, ‘Albert Oehlen, There’s something hysterical about magenta’, The Guardian, 5 Feb 2016). An outstanding example of the artist’s practice at a crucial juncture in his career, the present work succeeds in these aims with assurance

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