Art in America


In his 2015 collage The Humorlessness of Historians Spawns Further Monsters . . . , German artist Werner Büttner frames a bust of Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and endings, within an inky black void; the god’s two faces look forward and backward in time as what looks like an explosion of stars showers upon him. Büttner’s exhibition of seventeen paintings and fifty-five collages (all but one work 2015 or 2016) was overflowing with allusions, symbols, and enigmatic juxtapositions—like Magritte, Büttner is a capable painter whose work poses challenges less painterly than syntactic—and while viewing this modestly scaled composition I apprehended a unifying framework for the many words and pictures in dialogue around me.