Magnus Plessen, The Blue Bench, 2015, oil on canvas, 49 1/4 × 76 3/4".

Magnus Plessen

Mai 36 Galerie

Magnus Plessen, The Blue Bench, 2015, oil on canvas, 49 1/4 × 76 3/4".

First as tragedy, then as finish? Foremost slick and somewhat antiseptic, Magnus Plessen’s latest paintings, exhibited under the title “nineteen hundred fourteen,” seek to also bear historical weight. Since 2014, the artist has painted subjects meant to evoke the disfigured victims of World War I, conceiving this centennial cycle as a four-year touring exhibition, with stops, according to the press release, in “every major country involved in the first world war.” Does that include Switzerland?

This confusion aside, the assorted oils can be said to effectively (face-)lift cranial motifs from Otto Dix’s 1924 cycle of etchings, Der Krieg (The War), yielding stylish semiabstractions in stonewashed Day-Glo cyan, fuchsia, yellow, and emerald, arranged on dark, vertical, timber-wall-like backgrounds. Plessen’s primary interest seems to lie in the simulacral properties of the medium

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