Albert Oehlen, Georg Herold, Christopher Wool

Joe Scanlan, 1989

Albert Oehlen’s recent paintings unabashedly confront the History of Germany, drawing their power not only from their subject matter (Hitler and Nazism) but also from a growing resistance expressed by many Post-War Germans to bearing the guilt of their country’s past. Oehlen broadens this question of guilt by including mirrors in his paintings: by suddenly reflecting one’s own accusatory gaze, the viewer as well becomes implicated in the work. This is an unsettling yet compelling turn of events.

Georg Herold’s art objects - brick glued to canvas, stitched arrangements of buttons on canvas, and sculptures made of such materials as wood lath, panty hose, underwear and wire - are the result of the artist’s frenetic yet measured expertise. Herold’s candor infuses these blunt objects with the “power” of art; however, Herold’s faith in this power is suspect, and his diagrams are symbolically open-ended and futile. This stilted logic and specious communication can be interpreted many ways, all of which are equally significant and insignificant, relevant and irrelevant, self-constructed. In a word: subjective. For Herold, personal significance and interaction takes precedent over massive communication. The work is democratically interpreted as opposed to democratically preached.

Christopher Wool’s objects are predicated on an understanding of the traditions and expectations of Painting, primarily as an expressive and communicative object and act. Wool paints the letters of words and phrases in a geometrically formal manner, partially cutting up their legibility for the sake of an over-all surface effect. Wool’s paintings create a communicative dilemma in the literal and figurative “reading” of his work: its literal function as language and its figurative function as art. The artist’s texts are fractured through the formal act of painting, yet this act is reassembled by language’s narrative rules. In order to read Wool’s words one must subordinate his images, and vice versa; the formal beauty of his paintings contradicts the desire for their “meaning.”