Portfolio by Anna Plesset

An artist traces her grandfather through Europe by way of footage he filmed during World War II.

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It starts with a found film. According to Plesset, sometime around 1945 her grandfather, a division psychiatrist in the US Army during WWII, exchanged a pistol for a 16mm camera. The footage from this camera is a record of his passage through Europe during the last years of the war, lingering almost equally on landmarks, monuments, and landscapes as on bombed-out roads and abandoned cities. 

Using found matter is not unprecedented, of course, but what makes Plesset’s project, Aftermath (Working Title), so interesting is her systematic way of working through this footage. Taking her cues from the sites in the film,1. Lake Lucerne, Switzerland; Lucerne, Switzerland; Zürich Hauptbahnhof, Switzerland; US Army Switzerland Leave Center, Mulhouse, France; bombed-out bridge, Germany; Lake Lucerne, Switzerland; Nationalquai, Lucerne, Switzerland; Kapellbrücke, Lucerne, Switzerland; Swiss Alps; Düren (?), Germany; road construction sign, Kassel, Germany; forced labor camp, Germany; River Seine (?), Paris, France; Le Havre (?), France; Madame Tussauds, London, England; Victoria Memorial, London, England; Buckingham Palace, London, England; Big Ben, London, England; Palace of Westminster, London, England; River Thames, London, England; Cigarette Camp, Le Havre, France; Monticello, Virginia; Beach Haven, New Jersey; alligator farm, location unknown; Kassel, Germany; forced labor camp, Germany; pontoon bridge, Germany; Bunker am Weinberg, Kassel, Germany; Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany; Friedrichsplatz, Kassel, Germany; Wilhelmshöher Allee, Kassel, Germany; July Column, Place de la Bastille, Paris, France; Palais de Chaillot, Trocadero, Paris, France; Eiffel Tower, Paris, France; River Seine, Paris, France; Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France; debarkation area, Le Havre, France; Place de la Concorde, Paris, France; Sacré-Coeur, Paris, France; Moulin Rouge, Paris, France; Cranmore Mountain, New Hampshire; Islamic Center, Washington, D.C.; White House, Washington, D.C.; Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.; view of the Jefferson Memorial and the Pentagon, Washington, D.C.; Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.; Mount Vernon, Virginia; The United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.; Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.; Jefferson Memorial, Washington D.C.; slag fire, West Mifflin, Pennsylvania.  Plesset has been following the footsteps of her grandfather in contemporary Europe, picking up paraphernalia and documenting both her own travels and the traces of what her grandfather shot. In a slow and exacting way, Plesset copies in oil paint what seems to be the unimportant, the mementos—scraps, tickets, photographs, etc.—she gathered in her travels onto large white panels. The paintings are sparse, leaving much behind, much unsaid, to be perhaps completed, but mainly further complicated by the presence of Document of a Travelogue by Lt. Col. Marvin R. Plesset, Division Neuropsychiatrist (2013). It is a document of a travelogue because Plesset isn’t showing the original 24-minute film, but rather, a version of the footage that she re-filmed while projecting the original on her studio walls.

The geography Plesset is dealing with here brings together a shared record—the images resulting from years of war, which echo with us to this day—and a personal one. The project is fragmented in its constant shifting between these two axes, but it’s the details—locations on a map, stills from the grandfather’s film, a stub from a museum ticket, a postcard—that make it resonate as a document that is intimate in scale and ambitious in the way it reflects history, technology, time, and how these alter our experience. —Orit Gat

Anna Plesset is a painter based in Brooklyn. Since receiving her MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2011, Plesset has participated in numerous residencies including the Terra Summer Residency Program in Giverny, France and the AIRspace Program at the Abrons Art Center in New York. Recent solo and group exhibitions include White House at Galerie Clemens Gunzer, Zurich, Switzerland (2013); Jew York at UNTITLED and Zach Feuer Gallery, New York (2013); The Wall at Marlborough Chelsea, New York (2013); Observe, Notice, Understand at the Horticultural Society of New York (2013); and A Still Life at UNTITLED (2013). Her work has been written about in Artforum, frieze, Modern Painters, The New York Times, and Time Out.

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