J. Beuys died
Top Gun premiered
Space Shuttle Challenger exploded
Mad Cow Disease exploded
Ornette Coleman acts alongside Pat Metheny
the Melvins released “Melvins”
and Thomas Bernhard “Extinction”
– Albert Oehlen
Galerie Max Hetzler, London presents an exhibition dedicated to the year 1986 featuring important works by Georg Herold, Albert Oehlen and David Salle. Bound together by threads of time, Herold and Oehlen’s respective practices came out of a divided post-war Germany, whilst Salle’s work captures the colourful consumerist landscape of the booming 1980s in New York City.
That which you face right now, could already be found in 1986! The dream of dismantling the establishment! (Jesus was robbed of his garments). And, by the way, the vision of a socialist Afghanistan as well as some underwear, then, some sculpture. Indeed! First driving Saporoshez all along the cyber pass up to the exchange for any Pajero. Plus rubble enough. Thin lines are tracing every point in diagrams and bench marks. The loss of anything and the replacement of anything by anything doesn’t matter. At all! Now we have the salad! Not me! You! Too! Everybody is an artist (as well). And a cook too. And we have beef and we have eaters. Now you know how the rabbit runs! If you expect to find the meaning of everything, the meaning of life in the future, you should follow the route of Voyager II …
– Georg Herold
The year 1986 situates itself within a chronology of fragmented headlines. Political instability and social crises clash with the neon glow of the post-disco era. Alongside each other, the artists’ works attest to the multiplicity of discourses informing the art world that year. Attacking both the artistic and political status quo of 1980s West Germany, Herold maps out the dangers of territorial nationalism through the unconventional use of wood rather than paint. For Oehlen, this was a particularly experimental period. Exploring multiple themes and techniques, the artist engaged in self-portraiture, while simultaneously testing the boundaries between figuration and abstraction in a move towards his later ‘post non-representational’ painting. Meanwhile in the US, Salle incorporated new media into his artworks. Juxtaposing references to art history with advertising and translating cinema, photography, and performance into painting, he bent the medium’s limitations in his work.
At this remove, the year 1986 holds little specific resonance; I was sort of careening through the “80s project”, however one wishes to define it. However, when I looked back at the works I made that year I was struck by the high level of invention and an overall formal boldness. We had taken painting apart in the first years of the decade, and now were mid-way through the process of putting it back together.
– David Salle
Georg Herold (*1947, Jena) lives in Cologne. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held in international institutions, including Kunstmuseum Bonn (2017–18); Dallas Contemporary (2013); Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2012); Museum Ludwig, Cologne (2007–2008); S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent (2007); Kunstverein Hannover (2005); Kunsthalle Zurich (1999, 1989); Museé d’Art Moderne at Contemporaine, Geneva (1993); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1993); The Carnagie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (1991); Dallas Museum of Art (1991); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1990); Kunstverein Hamburg (1986) and Institute of Contemporary Art, London (1986), among others. Works by Georg Herold are held in the collections of prominent museums including Bawag Foundation, Vienna; K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein Westfalen, Düsseldorf; MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona; Museum Ludwig; Cologne; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Sammlung Zeitgenössischer Kunst der Budesrepublik Deutschland; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and Tate, London, among others.
Albert Oehlen (*1954, Krefeld), lives and works in Switzerland. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held in international institutions, including the Serpentine Gallery, London (2019–2020); Palazzo Grassi, Venice and Aïshti Foundation, Beirut (2018– 2019); Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana (2017); The Cleveland Museum of Art and Guggenheim, Bilbao (2016); New Museum, New York and Kunsthalle Zürich (2015); Museum Wiesbaden (2014); mumok, Vienna (2013); Kunstmuseum Bonn (2012); Carré d’Art de Nîmes (2011); Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (2009); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2006); MOCA, Miami and Kunsthalle Nürnberg, Nuremberg (2005); Musée Cantonal Des Beaux Arts, Lausanne, Domus Artium 2002, Salamanca and Secession, Vienna (2004), among others. Oehlen’s work is in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris; Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; MUDAM, Luxembourg; Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris; Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain Strasbourg; Museum Brandhorst, Munich; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden; Tate, London; The Broad, Los Angeles; The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland; and The Museum of Modern Art, New York, among others.
David Salle (*1952, Oklahoma) lives in Brooklyn, New York. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held in international institutions, including Dallas Contemporary (2015); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Moderne Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna; Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Castello di Rivoli, Turin; Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao (all 1999); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (all 1987); Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund; Aarhus Kunstmuseum; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Insittute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporay Art, Los Angeles (all 1986) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1985), among others. Works by David Salle are held in the collections of prominent museums including the Art Institute of Chicago, IL; Hamburger Bahnhof, Staatliche Museen, Berlin; Kunstmuseum, Basel; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Musée National D’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate, London; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, among others.
Installation view of 1986: Georg Herold, Albert Oehlen, David Salle, Galerie Max Hetzler, London, 2022. Courtesy of the artists and Galerie Max Hetzler, Photo: Jack Hems.