Anna Plesset: ‘A Still Life’

The New York Times / Feb 14, 2013 / by Roberta Smith / Go to Original

In her first show in New York, Anna Plesset blends Conceptual art and trompe l’oeil into a meticulous, lovingly wrought installation. It unsettles the act of looking while layering her own activities as an artist over those of the American Impressionist painter Lilla Cabot Perry (1848-1933).

The point of intersection is real: In the late 1880s Perry built a studio for herself in Giverny, France, to be near her friend and mentor Claude Monet; in 2011 Ms. Plesset used that space for several months as a recipient of the Terra Summer Residency Fellowship in Giverny.

The seemingly mechanically produced images on view are actually all handmade, drawn or painted: the framed photocopies of the opening pages of a catalog of Perry’s work; a cover of the same catalog affixed to a booklike slab of plywood; an old photograph of Perry at the easel. Odd dots and shapes on the wall cannot be overlooked. One is a circular self-portrait by Ms. Plesset, not much larger than a dime; painted directly onto the gallery wall, it brings to mind another realist wonder, Parmigianino’s “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.” An old-fashioned, eminently European electric outlet is actually a painting of one, and near it, also painted, is some kind of small bug slightly smashed. (Even so, the pair may bring to mind the Greek painter Zeuxis, whose painting of grapes fooled the birds, but his feat is mentioned in the news release.)

An artist’s studio is further summoned with Ms. Plesset’s own feats of representation: a scattering of ceramic shards, detritus and pieces of clay, and two postcards mounted on paper and smeared with paint, like much-used inspiration for paintings no longer present. I’m not sure what it all adds up to, but it might have something to do with the fluctuating visibility of women, in terms of both the past and the present of painting.