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Albert Oehlen, FM 17, 2008, oil, paper on canvas, 90 1/2 x 106 1/4.

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 painting. Beyond evoking the usual associations (action painting and Gutai, graffiti and children’s first art projects), the works beg a multitude of pressing questions: Does the handmade mark still indicate an auratic presence or an artistic expression? Or, alternatively, is painterly

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