Beer with a Painter: Albert Oehlen

The long-reigning bad boy of German painting has consistently poked and prodded at whatever preciousness we associate with the medium.

The long-reigning bad boy of German painting has consistently poked and prodded at whatever preciousness we associate with the medium. Early in his career, fueled by his association with Martin Kippenberger and other Junge Wildeartists, he employed a sardonic and deliberately ham-fisted figuration. As he shifted into abstraction, he implicitly parodied the idea of the artist’s struggle by juxtaposing chaotic passages with highly controlled and mediated ones. The work is unsettling — maybe even more so in the vast barrenness of Gagosian’s white rooms — because it forces us to confront our vestiges of faith in stable meaning and the comfort of rules.

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