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Albert Oehlen: The Accidental Abstractionist

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Raphael Rubinstein considers the career of painter Albert Oehlen.

Rubinstein observes: "Interestingly, Oehlen refers to his 1988-97 abstract paintings as 'post-non-objective.' The phrase is odd since you would expect an artist who had switched from figuration to abstraction to call his new work 'post-representational' or 'post-figurative' rather than 'post-non-objective,' the term 'non-objective' being a common synonym for abstraction. Oehlen’s odd terminology suggests that he wanted to escape the abstract/figurative binary, in order to make paintings in which one didn’t have to take sides, and in which content wouldn’t be equated with the presence or absence of recognizable imagery… Ultimately, the effect of the paintings, the kind of experiences they offer, is far more subtle and rewarding than such crass binaries. But perhaps it is the very crassness of this initial juxtaposition, its blatancy, that permits Oehlen to venture into such complex painting territory, to do the amazing things with color, gesture, space and light that make the poster paintings feel as visually rich as some Baroque masterpiece."

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