New York

Magnus Plessen

Gladstone Gallery | West 21st St

Almost all of the nine canvases in Magnus Plessen’s recent show include the form of a hand, frequently in multiple: a squat, glovelike shape, often truncated at the knuckles or just before the wrist, usually out of proportion to and floating free from the paintings’ human figures. As symbols go, it’s an obvious one, represented in accordingly clumsy fashion as a simplified glyph of unmodulated color or in white silhouette. Spiel (Game), 2009, pictures two people seated at a small table on which are stacked three such palms, proposing the body part as food, game, or currency.

The press release ties the motif to the artist’s tactile sensibilities, but more tempting is to read the palms as self-surrogates, notches of presence that intimate just what, to put it baldly, he can accomplish with his hands—an allegory that, in its very unsophistication, throws his considerable skill into relief.

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