Artforum Critic’s Pick

Sreshta Rit Premnath and Matthew Metzger
845 West Washington Boulevard

April 20–May 25

A property developer in Bangalore named M. S. Ramaiah purportedly believed that he could stave off death with endless site construction, a conceit that, along with the figure of Ramaiah himself, haunts Sreshta Rit Premnath’s solo exhibition “The Last Image.” The silhouette of a bronze bust of the magnate undergoes a layered process of construction and destruction in a series of three-and-a-half-by-four-foot C-prints on view, also titled “The Last Image.” The Last Image #4, 2012, is a photograph of a photographic print into which the contours of the bust have been slashed, revealing slivers of the blue screen beneath. The ripples in the buckling, glossy paper darkly recall the volume of the absent memorial. One scrutinizes these palimpsests in an attempt to match the detritus of destruction and loss (the scars of the artist’s cuts and scrapes) to the process of building and creation (the pictorial data of gloss and flatness) visually rehearsing Ramaiah’s quixotic belief.

It is easy to imagine footprints in construction-site dust tracking from “The Last Image” to “Backdrop”––Matthew Metzger’s adjacent solo show. The exhibition features five paintings from his ongoing “Guard” series, which depicts the rubber mudflaps that hang behind truck wheels. These paintings are records both of chance—the spraying, caking, and dripping of the dirt that accrue on the rubber in transit—and of precision, in the exquisite illusionism in oil and acrylic of the surface textures of rubber, oil, dust, and rust. The descriptor trompe l’oeil comes to mind when observing the “Guard” series or his other masterfully conjured textures, such as the shiny brass panel depicted by Kickplate, 2012. Yet this fails to account entirely for Metzger’s practice, which does not trick the eye into seeing illusory depth, but rather pushes paint’s illusory capacity to the surface.

— Julia Langbein