Wendy Gondeln

active since 1999


Albert Oehlen

born 1954 in Krefeld, Germany; lives in Gais, Switzerland

1977–1981: Degree at the Hochschule für bildende Künste (University of Fine Arts) in Hamburg under Claus Böhmler and Sigmar Polke

2000–2009: Professor at the Kunstakademie (Arts Academy) Düsseldorf

2015: Honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Visual Arts

Visual Arts

Albert Oehlen critically questions painting on many fronts: its own history, its clichés, and its missed opportunities, as well as the dominance of images from advertising and popular culture. Oehlen’s paintings begin with constraint and impertinence: he concentrates on specific colors (in most cases, musty brown tones), stagnant symbols (like the mirror) and ideologically burdened themes (the self-portrait). In his monumental mirror pictures from the mid-1980s, he interlocked different conceptions of space: flat colored space, perspectival space, and mirrored real space solidified into scenarios of somber beauty.

In the late 1980s, under the term »post-nonrepresentational painting,« Oehlen undertook a fundamental reconceptualization of his approach. For him, this meant a programmatic deconstruction of the opposition between representational/nonrepresentational, figure/ground and color/line. His incursions into pop culture, advertising, trash, and computer aesthetics, as well as political iconography, were rigorously integrated into the overall context of a thoroughly designed image. He has stayed true to this principle to this day.



Beginning in 1980, when Albert Oehlen was still a student at the University of Fine Arts in Hamburg, he became a member of the Neue Welle scene. As a member of the band Nachdenkliche Wehrpflichtige (Thoughtful Conscripts) and later for the record project Kirche der Ununterschiedlichkeit (1982) as part of the group LSDAP/AO—or to be more exact, Männer in Nassen Kleidern (Men in Wet Clothes), he switched between playing saxophone, violin, and xylophone.

At that time, an ironic corny title like »A women who can do karate doesn’t have a chance against a man with a car jack from a Toyota or As if someone squeezed me out of a shell« (by Männer in Nassen Kleidern) was a trademark of noise improvisation music. This was to be continued in the music projects pursued by Martin Kippenberger, such as The Alma Band, Weiß und Doof, and The Knowhow Knockers. This deliberate game of confusion around identity and style appropriation was meant to find expression on the 1987 LP The Golden Kot Quartet, which had swing jazz recorded by a group around Rüdiger Carl, although Oehlen and Kippenberger, along with Günter Förg and Hubert Kiecol, masqueraded as the real musicians.


In the early 1990s, Oehlen was, for a short time, a member of the third reincarnation of The Red Krayola, and in the mid-1990s a part of Jailhouse (together with Rüdiger Carl and his brother Markus Oehlen), before he and his brother Markus started the project Van Oehlen. Their CDs, We Are Eggsperienced (1998) and Rock and Roll Is Here to Die (2003), brushed jazz and rock references against the grain of electronic possibility. With tireless and ornery cooperation, Oehlen initiated further collective projects, such as Titankatzen, Euphrat, and Tigris right up to Luke & Wendy, which was released in 2017 as a homage to the artist, musician, and filmmaker Tony Conrad, who had just died.

Between 1987 and 2004, Oehlen ran the label Leiterwagen Records, which released two dozen records by artist and musician friends, including Jörg Schlick, his brother Markus (as Don Hobby), and the group Jailhouse. Since 1999, Oehlen has pursued a long-term music project under the pseudonym Wendy Gondeln, devoted to an angular, distorted, minimal electronic approach.

Author: Christian Höller

In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Wendy Gondeln

Fracking on a Saturday Night, 2012–2017, Music: Wendy Gondeln, Film: Albert Oehlen, 2:49 min.

Oehlen activated the artist name Wendy Gondeln—a witty ambiguous reference to Nicolas Roeg’s horror film classic Don’t Look Now (1973), whose German title is Wenn die Gondeln Trauer tragen—for the first time in 1999 for the remix attempt Rectangle Rec Recycled. After a break, he bounced back in 2014 with the record Fracking, which appeared on the Cologne label Magazine and was made in collaboration with resident techno and electronic masters like Wolfgang Voigt and Jens Uwe Beyer. Fracking with Wolfgang, a »stomper« based on scraping violin and cloudy, timid organ sounds, formed the blueprint for a whole collection of arrangements (for instance, Voigt, with whom Oehlen did the installation Baum 3 in 2015). The video Fracking on a Saturday, produced for the exhibition Doppelleben, visualizes the track Fracking with Wolfgang in a classic Oehlen way: in sync with the music, the viewer sees monochrome colors fill a screen, alternating between magenta and its light green complement. Every possible afterimage endorses and fulfills itself. A circle closes and yet remains wide open, just as the term »fracking« suggests something between »freaking« and »fucking,« or perhaps only refers to the controversial drilling method.


Christian Höller