Albert Oehlen's Genius

Albert Oehlen, Captain Jack, 1997, silk-screen and oil on canvas (Private collec
Albert Oehlen, Captain Jack, 1997, silk-screen and oil on canvas (Private collection)

Sharon Butler reviews Albert Oehlen: Home and Garden at the New Museum, New York, on view through September 13, 2015.

Butler observes: "Oehlen isn’t a worrier. For him painting isn’t about developing a distinctive style or thinking too deeply about a particular shape or line; to the contrary, it’s about creating something unexpected and taking painting somewhere new... Oehlen is unequivocally a pioneer. In the 1990s, when he got his first laptop, he began using digital imagery – early Photoshop drawings – as subject matter for his paintings. At the time, few knew what to make of the computer or manipulative software, or how to incorporate digital imagery into painting. The options for outputting digital drawings were limited, and few artists thought to use the crude images made on the computer as the basis for paintings. Many were trying to make early digital imagery look like traditional drawing and painting, but Oehlen's genius was that he embraced it for what it was, and unapologetically incorporated elements that others were trying to overcome – the pixelated edges, artifacts from cutting and pasting, shrill RGB color, inconsistent lighting between composited images, clumsy brush tools, ready-made patterns, and so forth."