12443 - 20170312 - Acclaimed contemporary artist showcases monumental paintings - Cleveland, OH - 04.12.2016-12.03.2017


Bäume, 2004. Albert Oehlen (German, b. 1954). Oil and paper on wood, two sections; 265 x 385 cm. © Albert Oehlen. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin | Paris.
In an exhibition as innovative and daring as the art it showcases, Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle is the most ambitious project devoted to the work of leading German artist Albert Oehlen ever presented in the United States. Developed by the Cleveland Museum of Art in close collaboration with the artist, the exhibition illustrates the depth and complexity of an artist who has been at the forefront of artistic innovation since the late 1970s. Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle features 45 works from the past 30 years and includes many new works. The exhibition brings together not only works by Oehlen, but contributions by some of his closest friends and other artists who have exerted profound influence throughout his oeuvre. Featured in the exhibition and the accompanying publication are curatorial, musical and written contributions by curator Julie Sylvester, artist Christopher Williams, and author and critic Diedrich Diederichsen. These help to illustrate and contextualize Oehlen’s diverse approach to art making. In addition, Oehlen and Swiss drummer and composer Michael Wertmüller have produced a new musical piece as part of a multimedia installation that makes its debut in Cleveland. Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle, a centennial special exhibition, is on view in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Hall from December 4, 2016, through March 12, 2017.
Multifaceted yet highly focused, Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle explores Oehlen’s primary themes and artistic approach. Over the last four decades, Oehlen’s practice has been deeply influenced by various fields of cultural production including literature, music, film, and graphic design. The exhibition reflects this complex layering of methods, subject matter and view points, while also celebrating an artist who continues to have an immeasurable influence on contemporary art.

“We are extremely proud to organize an exhibition that features the work of Albert Oehlen, one of the most influential artists working today,” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Oehlen’s interest in collaboration is an essential component of his practice, so the incorporation of works by his esteemed companions makes this a fantastic experience for our visitors, and the perfect show to lead us into our next 100 years.”

“To create a compelling narrative based on Oehlen’s seemingly inexhaustible artistic practice has been incredibly rewarding. The exhibition and the publication celebrate one of the most important painters of our time whose relevance to a younger generation of artists is immense,” said Reto Thüring, curator of contemporary art at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle features outstanding examples of Oehlen’s recent series of Baumbilder (Tree Paintings) as well as a never-before-seen suite of large etchings. The tree has reappeared as a motif in Oehlen’s work since the 1980s, providing a subject through which he has continuously tested the boundaries of figuration and abstraction. In the most recent series of tree paintings, begun in 2013, Oehlen elaborates on the subject that has captivated his imagination for the past 40 years.

In order to place Oehlen’s extensive body of work in a broader historical and cultural context, Curator of Contemporary Art Reto Thüring, together with Oehlen, invited the participation of curator Julie Sylvester and critic and author Diedrich Diederichsen—who have championed Oehlen’s artistic production from early on. At the suggestion of Sylvester, Albert Oehlen: Woods near Oehle juxtaposes two late paintings by Willem de Kooning with Oehlen’s seminal work Strassen (Streets) from 1988 as well as two more recent large-scale charcoal drawings. In these works, visitors will observe a sensibility and poetry of line and color shared by both artists, one whose career was drawing to a close and the other whose vision was still emerging. Diederichsen recommended the inclusion of works by three artists: Jackson Mac Low, Rodney Graham, and Harun Farocki. In all of these works in different media, the tree appears as subject matter, but more importantly, it represents a conceptual starting point for each artist’s consideration of representation and abstraction. Sylvester and Diederichsen’s contributions offer visitors a more profound understanding of Oehlen’s works and a path to appreciating his unique artistic vision.