A tree standing alone in a white-and-red color space, no ground for its roots, its limbs less branches than a layering of lines with different widths, some even detached from the tree. We barely see the visual signifiers of a material plant anymore. Instead, the recurring subject of the tree is a painterly means to an end for Albert Oehlen, which he uses to deal with abstraction and figuration, surface and space, by structuring the canvas from the center of the picture.
As early as the 1980s, Oehlen produced tree pictures with thickly applied streaks of color in muted brown tones. In the energetic yet strangely uniform black lines of the painting reproduced in this edition, we recognize the style of a computer brush, something that clearly refers to the electronically produced model that was subsequently rendered in oil. The digital origin also gives rise to the assumption of a “hole” in the trunk, slightly offset to below the center, which allows a view to the white background: The trace of a selective deletion of what was already painted with the mouse, a blurring of the edges, repeated on a smaller scale closer to the top, at the fork of a branch. Baum (2014) thus establishes a connection between two large series of works by Oehlen: The tree pictures of the 1980s and the abstract computer images of the 1990s. But the medium negotiated is always painting, to which any digital method is subordinated. We are pleased to offer this work, which is Oehlen’s fourth TEXTE ZUR KUNST edition.