Ace Gallery, Los Angeles
Aug 15 – Sep 23, 2017
For his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Sreshta Rit Premnath presents Falling, a multi-part exhibition linking two projects, Plot and Cadere/Rose.
The Cadere in Premnath’s Cadere/Rose, refers both to the word falling in Italian, as well as to André Cadere (1934-1978), the Polish-born artist who acquired a reputation of an annoying crank in the Paris art world of the 1970s, by discreetly leaning works of his, known as Barres de Bois Ronde—essentially wooden dowels with successive permutations of painted segments—against the walls of other artists’ exhibition spaces. This act posits a split between the materialized aspect of the work and the performative act of its placement. The latter presupposes the presence of the artist (the sine qua non of any performance whether actual or recorded). But the material work that remains also evokes an enduring theme of a shift in authorial identity. By its colored surface, angular placement, and sheer tension with its context, the bars inevitably riveted the gaze of viewers, and reconfigured the spatial criteria of the exhibition so as to entirely subsume it, and shift the authorship of the exhibition to Cadere. But, like the readymade that reverts to its original function once removed from a space for viewing art, the Round Bars have only to be removed from their exhibition context to be divested of their capacity to usurp the authorship of an exhibition. In this sense, the material object itself undergoes an identity shift by virtue of its fluid context, and, also, more specifically, in relation to its proximity to the artist’s person, the criterion for whether it is a performance prop or a fully constituted art object.
These themes of shifting authorial identity; the shifting status of the materialized artwork in relation to the general context, and the more specific condition of proximity to the person of the artist; the shifting identity of the artist in the perception of the viewer—in turn a function of the artist’s own physical context and that which has informed or distorted the viewer’s perceptions—all these are compounded by Premnath’s recapitulation of formal allusions to Cadere’s work, in Cadere/Rose. This fluctuation of the artwork between object and index is apparent in Premnath’s series of folding rulers, which lean against walls and are painted red with rose extract, occasionally interrupted by segments of chroma key green and the units of measurement that reveal the original function of the ruler.
By “expropriating” his own exhibition, Premnath stands Cadere’s original performative act on its head, but without diminishing a multiplicity of potentials of authorial identity—none of which would deny his own authorship of the work, but which, instead, provoke us to experience an oscillating system of versions of authorship in tension with each other.
One of these has to do with the Rose of the title, and explored in a performative action documented in the print Recto/Verso and accompanying texts. As a native of India, the artist could not but notice that his physical aspect, in a very general sense, resembled that of many Bangladeshi immigrant flower sellers who hawked roses in the squares of Rome, the city of his exhibition. At first confident of any onlooker’s perception of his identity, the artist realized that, “If I were holding a bouquet of roses, I too would disappear.”
The invisibility of the immigrant in his/her new surrounding, the effacement of individual identity that the place and its perceptions impose—these conditions not only extend the displacement of authorship in Cadere, but allow us to reflect on his own immigrant condition of invisibility in Paris, and on the condition of all the immigrants whose identities continue to remain invisible to hegemonic apparatuses.
This strange relation to space becomes ever more acute in the videos titled Sleeping Dogs, and the installation Plot, which take the contradictory relation between the bodily occupation of space, and the ownership of property as their point of departure. The dogs in these videos sleep in the midst of bustling cities where they are vulnerable, in spaces to which they have no juridical right. Compelled by necessity, their occupation of these sites evokes a relation to space that transcends ownership, and which we do not easily transgress. In this sense, not only does context change our perception of an art object or that of personal identity, but a shift in attention can also change our perception of a site.
This knot between ownership and occupation is further explored in the prone, body-like sculptures titled Slump, that take their form from the structures over which they drape placed within a mise-en-scène of decrepit billboards and “render-ghosts” extracted from real-estate banners.