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

Kotzimmer II

Albert Oehlen (b. 1954)
Kotzimmer II
signed and dated 'A. Oehlen 82' (upper right)
oil, lacquer and found mirrors on two joined fibreboards
59 7/8 x 48 7/8in. (152 x 122cm.)
Executed in 1982
Kurt Kalb, Vienna.
Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna.
Private Collection, Germany (acquired in 1991).
Vienna, Museum Moderner Kunst, Kunst der letzen 10 Jahre, 1989 (illustrated in colour, p. 205).
Bielefeld, Galerie David, Gesammelte Werke - die Achtziger, 2009.
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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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Lot Essay

‘I define a vocabulary of qualities that I want to see brought together: delicacy and coarseness, colour and vagueness, and, underlying them all, a base note of hysteria’
– Albert Oehlen

Executed in 1982, Albert Oehlen’s painting, Kotzimmer II, exhibits a gripping incongruity that exemplifies the playful spirit of the artist’s works from this pivotal period in his practice. Compelling in its contradiction, the painting seems at once serene and vivacious, absorbent and reflective, light and dark. The work comes from a series of mirror paintings executed by Oehlen in the 1980s, which collaged pieces of mirror directly onto canvas or fibreboard. The mirror as symbol has been employed throughout the canon of art history to significant, yet ‘highly contradictory’ ends, to borrow the words of Katja Hesch (K. Hesch, Albert Oehlen: Mirror Paintings, exh. cat., Berlin 2005, p. 29). From classical mythology to Biblical allegory, from caricature to the 17th century self-reflexive masterpieces of Diego Velázquez and Johannes Vermeer, its iconography conjures associations of narcissism and vanity, of self-knowledge and virtue, and of clarity and truth. Lured by its paradoxical nature, Oehlen’s large-format mirror works seek to emphasise, or perhaps satirise, the striking disparity of the mirror’s many allusions and illusions. Whilst some of the square mirrors in this painting shimmer with reflected light, others have been partially painted over, destabilising the illusory realm of painting as they become absorbed into the picture plane. To a similar effect, a roughly painted large black rectangle lends the appearance of a mysterious doorway, challenging the otherwise abstract composition and further complicating notions of reality and appearance.
As painting’s enfant terrible alongside Martin Kippenberger in 1980s Cologne, Oehlen subscribed to the notion of ‘bad painting’ that was rife amongst his contemporaries, deliberately rejecting aesthetic standards and practices and seeking instead ‘to get as far away from meaning as possible’ (A. Oehlen, quoted in S. O’Hagan, ‘Albert Oehlen: “There’s something hysterical about magenta,”’ The Guardian, 5 February 2016). Part expression, part social commentary, his mirror paintings subvert the traditional depiction of mirrors in art by instead including the physical object itself: no longer a symbol, they become a tangible presence within his pictorial space. Together with its witty title, humorously suggesting a debased subject matter, the painting lampoons the elevated art of the great masters in favour of blunt authenticity. Enforcing a kind of self-reflection, the viewer unavoidably becomes confronted with their own mirror-image, in turn troubling questions of figuration and abstraction. Indeed, Kotzimmer II implies the concrete, referencing both an interior space and mirrors in its title, yet depicts the conceptual, evoking what might better be understood as the visual manifestation of sensation and experience. Deliberately and enthrallingly ambiguous, the artist describes the ‘qualities that I want to see brought together: delicacy and coarseness, color and vagueness, and, underlying them all, a base note of hysteria’ (A. Oehlen, quoted in Gagosian, ‘Albert Oehlen Elevator Paintings: Trees’ [Press release], January 2017).

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