“Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle” was the latest selective survey by the shape-shifting German artist, and the largest exhibition of his work ever presented in the United States. Comprising thirty-six works, it spanned more than three decades and focused on the artist’s long-standing interrogation of painting via a practice that oscillates between representation and abstraction and locates the medium within an expanded field. The show also featured eleven works by other artistsincluding two sinuous canvases by de Kooning (Untitled, 1987, and Untitled XIII, 1985)suggesting lines of dialogue that connect Oehlen’s oeuvre to American modernism as well as to the artist’s contemporaries.
Nearly four decades ago, when Oehlen began his career, painting seemed exhausted. In the wake of Minimalism and Conceptual art, the art world harbored implicit biases against expression, as
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