Albert Oehlen's graphic work forms a central part of his multifaceted oeuvre. Even though the affinity and interaction with his paintings is visible, Oehlen's works on paper distinguish themselves from his paintings and mark an independent category. The exhibition at Galerie Max Hetzler shows a series of small-sized drawings as well as larger works on paper, a selection of collages and a wall drawing.
Restless dashes, drawn with ink, form complex arrangements on white paper. Black lines are crossing and overlaying each other, condensing into tortuous bundles before fleeing into the void. Upon small format Oehlen develops works that occupy and survey this particular space. Beside abstract elements also human forms – bodies or mere single limbs – can be perceived, spreading over the sheet and immediately dissolving into abstraction.
Much more reduced in his large-scaled drawings, Oehlen creates gestural marks with black charcoal on paper which underscore the intuitive moment that is intrinsic to the act of drawing. Well-defined lines are the traces of expansive bodily gestures and sudden changes in direction of the artist’s hand. Although the process happens both faster and more direct than in his painterly work and the result seems to be impulsive and spontaneous, it is in its entirety subtly constructed by Oehlen. He deliberately leaves blank spaces, doubles existing lines, smudges traces of charcoal and thus develops a plain, concentrated image structure.
In his collages Oehlen uses cut-outs – mostly images but also fragments of texts – from newspapers and magazines. Images of advertisements and ancient sculptures, rock bands and expired calendar sheets, floral ornaments or a portrait of Richard Serra are being glued incoherently side-by-side. Within their incompatibility the motifs present an immediate image impression that neither aims for a link in terms of content nor for a contrast generated tension but rather creates a visual parallelism of all elements.