Gladstone Gallery is pleased to announce our fourth solo exhibition of new paintings by Magnus Plessen. For over a decade, Plessen has been known for his subtle investigations into the phenomenological structure of vision, tactility, and form that are the foundation of his painting practice. Looking to the immediate material properties of paint and the two-dimensional surface, Plessen constructs his compositions by systematically adding and subtracting sections of paint to create a shifting field of positive and negative space, revealing not only the artist's process of mark making, but also the ghostly presence of what has been removed. Plessen's imagery is determinedly generalized, often showing just a suggestion of a face, bottle, or hand. These motifs emerge from a fractal landscape of lines, shapes, and colors to provide a palpable tension between abstraction and representation.
This exhibition brings together two new series of large-scale paintings that together continue to expand upon Plessen's formal strategies. Returning to the female form, the first set of works present the image of a pregnant woman. In these paintings, the figures are positioned frontally, facing the viewer in a collage-like assemblage of fragmented body parts, creating a feeling of spatial flatness while celebrating the subject’s physical presence.
In the second body of work, Plessen adopts the notion of rotation as an analogy for building movement and momentum within the structure of each painting. Plessen employs this as an organizational principle, invoking a visual sense of rotation by positioning the figure of a head at the center of each canvas to create a generative force of action around which the painting's elements are arranged. Unlike the directness of the female figure, these works eschew specific subject matter and instead build upon an internal logic of rhythm, motion, and temporality. Plessen explains:
These paintings take less notice of the presence of the viewer than earlier works. Imagine a
theater performance being in full blast as you enter the space of the theater to take your seat.
This indifference to me or possibly the onlooker, and a feeling of unfamiliarity of the depicted
heads and body parts, give the rotation paintings a quality of coming from a long distance to
While Plessen's color values have previously remained distinctly muted, both new series playfully engage a palette of bright pinks, blues, and yellows, which further punctuate the artist’s depth of space as well as a newly explored painterly light. Through these works, Plessen establishes a vibrant exchange between his rigorous formal structures, developed sense of materiality, and the ever-unfolding experience of viewing a painting.