Sreshta Rit Premnath creates works in sculpture, video, photography, and installation that draw on the formal legacies of minimalism and conceptualism to think through the politics of boundaries, bodies, and labor in contemporary life. In Premnath’s work, the use of a line, for example, is never neutral or abstract, but rather speaks to the power to demarcate and displace. The corrugated panels, cardboard, metal fencing, or cargo and freight materials that often compose his works are not merely convenient modular readymades, but the raw material that visibly indexes “development,” and the consolidation of wealth that tends to result. Recently, questions of space—who can own or occupy it—have guided Premnath’s work, as has the artist’s investigations of visibility, invisibility, and misrecognition as part of the everyday experiences of those who are marginalized.
Expanding on these concerns, Premnath’s forthcoming exhibition at the List Center furthers his investigation of the theme of waiting, a subject that may find even greater resonance as the Covid-19 pandemic has put much of the world on hold. Premnath’s installations, however, foreground the conditions of those who were already living a precarious and disenfranchised existence: his works call upon the architecture of detention camps or laborer’s quarters by way of human-scaled sheets of foam that are weighted in coats of plaster. These figures lie, lean, and “slump” against one another, or seek support from freestanding structures around them. Alluding to oppressive regimes of time and space that conspire against vulnerable people and populations, whether through modes of incarceration, bureaucratic delay, or chronic waiting, Premnath’s work extends post-minimalist discourse to confront an aesthetics of austerity and dispossession in a strikingly different realm.
Sreshta Rit Premnath (b. 1979, Bangalore, India; lives in Brooklyn, NY) is an artist and the founding editor of Shifter, an issue-based journal featuring contemporary art, creative writing, and critical theory. Premnath also directs the BFA Fine Art program at Parsons School of Design in New York. His work has been the focus of solo exhibitions at Spaces, Cleveland (2007); Wave Hill, New York (2011); Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis (2012); Nomas Foundation, Rome (2017); and the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2019) among others. He has participated in group exhibitions including The Matter Within: New Contemporary Art of India, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco (2011); The Hollow Center, Smack Mellon, New York (2013); Common Space, The Kitchen, New York (2014); After Midnight, The Queens Museum, New York; So-Called Utopias, Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago (both 2015); Cartography of Ghosts, The Drawing Center, New York (2016); The Socrates Annual; Socrates Sculpture Park, New York (2017); and L’Intrus Redux, Westfälischer Kunstverein, Münster (2019), among others. He holds a BFA from The Cleveland Institute of Art (2003) and an MFA from Bard College (2006).
Premnath’s exhibition is co-organized by Natalie Bell, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center, and Amara Antilla, Senior Curator, Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati. Premnath’s List Center presentation will be followed by a related exhibition of the same title at CAC in fall 2021. This pair of exhibitions will be accompanied by a special edition of the artist’s journal, Shifter 25: Waiting, co-edited by Avi Alpert and Premnath. The publication will result from a series of public discussions convened by Shifter and co-hosted by the List Center and CAC in fall 2020 and spring 2021.
Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Fotene & Tom Coté, Audrey & James Foster, Idee German Schoenheimer, Joyce Linde, Cynthia & John Reed, and Sara-Ann & Robert Sanders. This exhibition is also supported by generous donors to the 2020 McDermott Award Gala, hosted by the Council for the Arts at MIT.
General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Associate Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.