Gagosian is pleased to present Albert Oehlen’s Tramonto Spaventoso (2019–20). This is the first time that Oehlen’s provocative and personal response to the Rothko Chapel in Houston is being exhibited in its entirety; the first part was shown at the Serpentine Galleries, London, in 2019–20, the second at Gagosian Beverly Hills earlier this year. The paintings are installed in a custom-built octagonal structure in the Grand Theater Gallery of the Marciano Art Foundation, reflecting the layout of the original chapel.
Oehlen uses abstract, figurative, and collaged elements—often applying self-imposed strategic constraints—to disrupt the histories and conventions of modern painting. While championing self-consciously “bad” painting characterized by crude drawing and jarring coloration, he infuses expressive gesture with Surrealist attitude, openly disparaging the quest for reliable form and stable meaning.
In the eight large-scale paintings that constitute the Tramonto Spaventoso project, Oehlen variously interprets and dramatically transforms John Graham’s Tramonto Spaventoso (Terrifying Sunset, 1940–49), a painting by the Russian-born American modernist that Oehlen discovered in the 1990s and has been fascinated with ever since.