Magnus Plessen at Mason's Yard White Cube

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Magnus Plessen at Mason's Yard White Cube

Postby jasperjoffe » Fri Sep 28, 2012 12:44 pm

I dont really get this. They look all right. Is that all right?

"During the process of making the work, Plessen often physically turns the canvas 90 or 180 degrees as a means of re-positioning or confounding a resolute arrangement of the image. As he explains, in one position ‘my relationship to the painting feels familiar/grounded; when I turn the canvas, this familiar relationship – facing an object that faces me – is dissolved. In this process the location that I am used to occupying when looking at a painting is moving away from me to reappear at the centre of the painted image, unpopulated’. In doing so, Plessen’s aim is to liberate the image from a stable, singular reading to multiple and simultaneous viewpoints."

Does that help?

"He lives in Berlin with his wife and three sons. "

Thats good to know.
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Re: Magnus Plessen at Mason's Yard White Cube

Postby CAP » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:47 am

The idea of rotating a painting in order to judge its content is quite traditional really. It’s something that portraitists in particular once resorted to in order to discern mistakes in a face, that, as Plessen notes, the eye or mind otherwise overlooks. A likeness is often skewed by the eye’s ability to adapt or accept a plausible rendering in painting. You can’t really see the ‘real’ face in the painting, at a certain point, for the face you have so far created. So the painter resorts to re-orienting the picture – trying to see it from a different angle, in the hope of discerning mistakes or inaccuracies. This is essentially what painters do when they squint their eyes and back away from a work; perhaps even incline their head one way or another, stroll back and forth. What they’re basically after is seeing it in a new way or as if for the first time. They want to see what it looks like with different eyes. Another trick they used to use (perhaps some still do) is looking at a painting in a mirror – again, this often picks up subtle asymmetries or shifts in emphasis that are vital, but very hard to otherwise detect or amend.

In the old days, I sometimes used Polaroids for this. A painting just looks different in a photograph. I can see my mistakes a lot clearer there. Now I use digital photography, but there are other problems with this, as I recently discovered. Even with abstract painting, the same issues arise. An artist like Willem de Kooning was famous for rotating his paintings and working on them from various sides, in order to adjust the balance of a composition, the subtle ambiguities of figuration. This is slightly different from Pollock’s walking all around a canvas on the floor and throwing paint at it. There, the painting and technique strictly have no up and down, left and right, they’re simply a brilliantly sustained field. But de Koonings have the one right orientation. He’s just making sure that he’s checked the balances he’s seeking in every way he can; that he hasn’t overlooked anything. I’ve an idea Mondriaan did something similar – may well have arrived at his diagonal format or losange orientation as a result.

Anyway to get back to Plessen, I’m supposing he’s looking for some kind of balance between abstraction and figuration, between the motif as just a design or icon, and as picture, or more than just an icon. He’s one of those artists I’ve tended to skirt around for a while, waiting to make up my mind or waiting for the artist to develop a little more. Back in the early naughties he was flagged as up and coming. In 2004 Jordan Kantor (at that time a curator at MoMa, I think) linked him to a wave of youngish painters in an article titled The Tuymans Effect in the November issue of Art Forum. As the title hints, Kantor saw Plessen, Haverkost and Sasnal as basically influenced by Tuymans. I’d go along with the Sasnal call. At the time Plessen had been using the isolated motif on a flat ground, as in Lying Figure (2003) where the figure – I think it’s probably an ice hockey player - is treated in these very broad horizontal strokes, well actually they’re not so much brushstrokes as scraped or dragged gestures, a bit like Juan Uslé has used, but heavier. It’s that emphatic lateral rendering that Kantor is probably registering as Post-Tuymansian, since from the 90s Tuymans starts to use very broad lateral strokes in which to model his photo sources. But Tuymans would never use anything as conspicuous or gimmicky as the little dragged channels that Plessen has stuck with. They’re too distracting; they’re really talking about something else in the painting. But Plessen is not really addressing ‘painting’ as opposed to photography – the motifs are not so clearly derived from photographic sources and the distinctive gestures or facture are really a kind of design decision. They’re like the equivalent of blocking in with those coloured marker pens that layout artists use. It’s at that stage of really cursory assignment of areas of the picture to functions of ground or setting. It’s abstraction for the graphic designer.

For the last few years I’ve been sort of half waiting to see what he does with them, not exactly dying of suspense, because I’m not convinced it’s all that promising a line of inquiry. But line is most assuredly, where it’s been leading. There are other paintings where he uses what looks like masking tape or just masked long rectangular hard-edge shapes that function as very rough outlines for a table or chairs for instance. It’s a schematic approach that kind of keeps drawing at a distance. That’s why it seems more like a design decision or process to me. The broad lateral gestures are now more likely to be vertical rather than horizontal, (this from the show) but maintain strict parallels and have a vaguely oppressive, crude quality. This would be interesting if there was some compelling content at stake, but if anything, Plessen’s subjects have gone more generic, more routine and more than ever the work strikes me as basically sterile formal exercises. Yes, he’s a ‘painterly’ painter and there are symbolic or metaphorical allusions at play in his motifs, but this is the kind of safe, dry manoeuvres I associate with the work of teachers or full time lecturers. I’ve no idea if Plessen has done any teaching, but either way it’s not a good look.

It may be there’s a certain amount of complacency that creeps into the work of artists that achieve early recognition. Or maybe it’s a German thing. I was thinking the same thing about Rauch lately, reading an interview with him in his book of prints. It’s not that they run out of ideas, but that the ideas tend to become a bit hermetic, even arch. They’ve got their audience, now they toy with them.
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Re: Magnus Plessen at Mason's Yard White Cube

Postby bobby dazzler » Fri Oct 26, 2012 9:44 pm

fair comment a la plessen- but regarding the comparison with the latest tuymans outing in the new d. zwirner- i'd say plessens paintings beat that load of dross fairly easily
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