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For the past 30 years, German artist Albert Oehlen has been surprising the world with his honest depiction of what it means to be an artist: the love and hate relationship with its legacy, the pathetically real reflection of narcissism, the inhabitation of failure to make things “work.” Oehlen’s paintings of losers, rather than heroic figures, have gained quite a reputation, and it is with that in mind that his works are shown in New York for the first time at the New Museum.
Rather than exploring his 30-year career through a series of chronological paintings, Oehlen offers a demonstration of strong contrasts—interior and exterior; nature and culture; irony and sincerity. There are points of abstract art, figurative art, and a dynamic range of surprising mixed mediums. Seen in one corner of the museum, Oehlen has displayed a painting of himself atop a half-made bed. Atop the actual painting, however, is a prosthetic arm holding a paintbrush back onto the painting to insinuate a self-portrait in action—while lying down. He mocks the act of documenting yourself, and in an age of selfies, and yes, even selfie sticks, the installation seems almost eerily natural.
In a casual combination of abstract and figurative art, Oehlen defiantly, and seemingly appropriately, paints about our current time in which technology, and the world as we know it, is changing.
“Albert Oehlen: Home and Garden” is on view at the New Museum through September 13, 2015.