AKIHABARA SCHMUTZPOP ÄRMELKANAL TIMESQUARE DREAMPUNK
March – April 2021
Exhibition Video / Sound by Jens-Uwe Beyer
Fascination and Disturbance
His ideas, motifs, techniques, and material have changed rapidly. But Markus Oehlen’s repeated reinvention of himself remains a constant. This is what makes him so inimitable. For over forty years, since his first solo exhibition at Konrad Fischer’s exhibition space in 1977, he has turned against any visual comfort or aesthetic convention.
Oehlen is a subversive inventor of pictures and a sensitive breaker of rules. He draws on the boundless reservoir of the medial world that surrounds us, playfully intermixing high and trash culture to create hybrid picture puzzles. But it is impossible to be certain whether this results from sheer irreverence or attentive inquisitiveness. Probably both at the same time.
The different set pieces are overlaid in a collage-like manner. Oehlen crossfades abstraction and figuration in a shimmering way. He has harnessed the power of conceptual photocopies against Art Informel and of punk and handcraft against Conceptual Art, and confronted the regressive painting of the 1980s and 1990s with fragmentation, sampling, and the use of digital techniques at a very early point in time.
From the very beginning, he has taken painting and broken it down into its components. He puts them together again in a different way in ingenious experimental arrangements in order to see how stuff is made and what other kinds of things can be done with its components. He is not interested in »painting as such«; what attracts him instead is »the construction of painting.«
His pictures are nonetheless still illusions and certainly not »truer than reality,« but … they do know more. Integrating concept and construction was the necessary extension of the painterly possibilities. That is why, especially today, it seems important to us to discover Markus Oehlen and the topicality of his work anew with fresh eyes—equally disturbed and fascinated.
Christian Malycha, 2020