Albert Oehlen

  • Albert Oehlen

    INFORMATION NETWORKS have no special importance for me as a painter. I chose painting because I want to be left alone with media issues. When media or technique takes precedence, the art is mostly not interesting.

    Nondigital information networks—the kind that create a social context, chains of gossip, etc.—might be very important, but if I know about all of this, does it make me an enlightened artist, or a smart manipulator?

    In my case, the painter is in the studio and paints and the viewer is in the gallery and looks. This situation, one against many, is better for me than when

    I am


    THESE DAYS, artists don’t paint with their fingers much—but since 2008, Albert Oehlen has not been afraid to get his hands dirty. To make his large-scale Fingermalerei” (Finger Painting) works, the German artist jettisons the brush and instead applies paint to the canvas surface directly with his bare hands. Following his previous body of work—in which collaged, printed elements jostled with campaigns of virtuoso brushwork in visual mash-ups—this series constitutes a new chapter in Oehlen’s sustained investigation into gesture and how it might signify in the context of contemporary


    Almost every work of Modernism . . . is the solution of a problem.

    —Peter Szondi, Briefe, 1993

    IT IS ONE OF ALBERT OEHLEN'S AIMS to demystify the process of painting. When he began his career, in the late ’70s, the “classical” rejection of painting that led to Conceptual art and other “critical” approaches to artmaking had become an institutionalized norm within the art world. Oehlen rejected this position as too mechanical, monocausal, and moralistic; though he had no interest in any sort of rappel à l’ordre, painting remained for him the definitive visual-arts medium, the determiner of art’s