Bringing together singular paintings from a significant early series in Albert Oehlen’s oeuvre, this will be the first exhibition dedicated to the Spiegelbilder (‘Mirror Paintings’) in the UK. The exhibition coincides with a major solo show of the artist’s work at the Serpentine Gallery, London, which opens on 2 October 2019.
Spanning eight years, from 1982 – 1990, the Spiegelbilder series straddles a decisive period for the artist, during which he moved from the crude figuration and “bad painting” of the late 1970s and early 80s, towards non-objective painting in the late 1980s. Through the Spiegelbilder, Oehlen cemented his reputation for subverting painting conventions.
“This mirror idea allowed me to make an ‘original’ invention, but one that is bearable because it is so hackneyed.” –– Albert Oehlen
One of Oehlen’s earliest bodies of work, the Spiegelbilder are distinguished by actual pieces of mirror collaged onto the surface of the canvas, highlighting the artist’s unconventional approach to painting from the outset. Although visually distinct, there is an attitude and approach in these paintings towards colour, light, scale and line that carries through later series. Belonging to the Spiegelbilder are some of Oehlen’s first self-portraits, a primary example of which will also be exhibited.
Many of the works in the series depict domestic interiors and politically-charged exteriors in a palette of muted colours. With titles alluding to Germany’s past and the incorporation of social and political spaces such as museums, staircases and brick walls as barrier motifs, Oehlen demonstrates his ability to turn controversy into cliché.
Outsmarting painted pictorial reality with actual mirrored reality, the Spiegelbilder redefine the limits of the medium, drawing us in physically through their reflective qualities. Ambiguous in their presentation of socio-political spaces, the works provide early insight into Albert Oehlen’s idiosyncratic approach to painting through an ever-evolving style and technique.
A second presentation of further works from the Spiegelbilder series will be exhibited at Nahmad Contemporary, New York from 5 November - 21 December 2019.
Albert Oehlen (*1954, Krefeld) lives and works in Switzerland. His first solo exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler was in 1981 and he has had 25 solo shows at the gallery since. Oehlen's work has been shown in numerous solo exhibitions in international institutions, including Palazzo Grassi, Venice (2018); Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana (2017); Cleveland Museum of Art and Guggenheim, Bilbao (both 2016); New Museum, New York and Kunsthalle Zürich (both 2015); Museum Wiesbaden (2014); mumok, Vienna (2013); Kunstmuseum Bonn (2012); Carré d'Art de Nîmes (2011); Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2006); MOCA, Miami; Kunsthalle Nürnberg (both 2005); Musée Cantonal des Beaux Arts, Lausanne; Domus Artium 2002, Salamanca and Secession, Vienna (all 2004), among others. Paintings by Albert Oehlen are held in the permanent public collections of prominent international museums including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; Kunstmuseum Bonn; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Broad, Los Angeles and Tate Gallery, London.